California’s leading public health officials convened a press conference this week to deliver a stern and ambitious message to the state’s nearly 40 million residents: stop vaping immediately.
According to concurrent reports from the Los Angeles Times and the Associated Press, Acting State Public Health Officer Charity Dean warned that Californians should stay clear of nicotine and cannabis-filled vape products altogether until authorities have had more time to investigate the vape illness that has now hospitalized hundreds and killed at least 9 across the country.
“We are seeing something that we have not seen before,” Dean said in a statement to the AP. “There are numerous unknown factors at this time, and due to the uncertainty of the exact cause, it is our recommendation that consumers refrain from vaping until the investigation has concluded.”
In California alone, two people have died and more than 90 have been hospitalized with lung damage linked to vape products. And while Golden State regulators have suggested that residents avoid all types of vape liquids, the state Public Health Department has made a point to single out black market THC vape cartridges sold at the state’s vast network of unregulated cannabis dispensaries.
“Illegal cannabis dispensaries sell unregulated and untested cannabis products and absolutely should not be used,” the agency said.
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As federal and state law enforcement and health officials continue to look into the vape-related illnesses, early hypotheses have tied the sickness to the chemical thickening agent Vitamin E Acetate. But this theory is yet to be confirmed. In the meantime, local governments are reacting with widespread vaping bans. In New York and Michigan, state officials halted the sale of all flavored nicotine products, while Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker went to even further extremes by banning the sale of all cannabis and nicotine vape products for the next four months.
California Governor Gavin Newsom has not yet proposed any law changes or emergency protocols related to the vape crisis, but in a statement to reporters on Tuesday, Newsom echoed the Health Department’s wide-reaching warnings.
“People are getting sick and some are dying as a result of vaping,” Gov. Newsom said. “Californians are encouraged to stop vaping until health officials fully understand what’s causing this public health crisis.”
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