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Wisconsin vaping investigations see an uptick, health officials warn public

MADISON (WKOW) — After one person died in Illinois after being hospitalized with a severe respiratory illness after recently vaping, Wisconsin officials are reminding people of the “unknown” dangers of e-cigarettes.

According to the Illinois Department of Public Health, as many as 50 people in at least six states have come down with breathing illnesses that may be linked to e-cigarettes or other vaping products.

Wisconsin said they’re aware of 16 confirmed cases of people with severe lung disease due to vaping. Fifteen other cases are under further investigation.

The Public Health Madison & Dane County said a majority of users don’t know the dangers. Program Director for the Tobacco-Free Columbia-Dane County Coalition said they’re increasing their efforts to educate the public that vaping is not safe and the products used are not regulated by the FDA.

“We know it’s not a regulated product, so we don’t really know what’s in them all the time,” said Ryan Sheahan, Tobacco-Free Coalition.

The most popular e-cigarette among teens is Juul which officials said targets youth by selling dozens of fruit flavors. Officials warn that starting to vape at a young age can affect brain development.

“Nicotine can rewire a youths brain and the structure of an adolescent brain, even young adults, can then to be acceptable to future addictions as well,” said Sheahan.

Sheahan also says many don’t know e-cigarettes contain more than just water vapor. He said products can contain heavy chemicals and cancer-causing chemicals which can also result in “secondhand vapor” for others around you.

The coalition is also trying to target schools to get the word out to teenagers about the dangerous side effects vaping can cause. Lawmakers are also working to pass legislation to raise the legal age to buy tobacco to 21.

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Tom Lally

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