U.S. health officials are warning users of e-cigarettes to reconsider their habit of vaping, noting a rise in the number of respiratory illnesses linked to the practice.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said Friday that they were investigating 215 cases of a serious lung disease possibly related to the use of e-cigarettes.
Officials said the cause of the illnesses was not yet known, but noted that in some of the cases, patients used e-cigarette products that contained THC, the mind-altering substance in marijuana.
Most of the patients have recovered from the mysterious illness, but last week, the first death from the disease was reported.
The CDC warned the public not to buy vaping products off the street and to avoid adding substances like THC.
"CDC recommends that, while the investigation is ongoing, Americans who use e-cigarettes and are concerned about these specific, potential risks of illness should consider refraining from their use, and should not buy them off the street or modify them or add substances in ways not intended by the manufacturer," the agency said.
E-cigarettes have been available in the United States for more than a decade. They work, in general, by using a battery to heat a liquid nicotine solution and turn it into an inhalable vapor.
While e-cigarettes contain nicotine, which is addictive, they are considered safer than traditional cigarettes because they do not contain tar or many of the other substances in traditional cigarettes, which make them deadly.
Advocates and critics
Advocates of e-cigarettes say they are a powerful tool to help adult smokers quit smoking traditional cigarettes.
However, critics say that e-cigarettes are addicting a new generation to nicotine. They also point out that the long-term health consequences of vaping are not known, and say that e-cigarettes could contain other potentially harmful substances, including chemicals used for flavoring and traces of metals.