COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - A mysterious lung illness has claimed the life of a sixth person and experts are potentially linking that disease to vaping and e-cigarettes.
Meanwhile, officials at the Medical University of South Carolina are reporting that vaping-related lung injuries are now showing up in the Charleston area. According to officials, leaks develop in the lungs and patients can spend weeks or months in the hospital recovering.
But according to doctors at MUSC, the link to vaping is still unclear. Experts with the CDC are tracking nearly 500 cases of the illness and now President Donald Trump is taking action alongside his health and human services secretary, Alex Azar.
The administration is proposing a ban of flavored e-cigarette pods, but vaping advocates fired back saying that would be detrimental to not only business but the millions of people who use the products.
"You can talk about inappropriate marketing and restricting names, marketing,” said Gregory Conley, the president of the American Vaping Association. “But just getting rid of these products, it's going to do nothing to combat the black-market contaminated THC products that are causing lung illnesses and will open up a brand new potentially multi-million-dollar black market."
But it's not the ex-smoking Americans health officials are watching, it's the young adults. According to a new American Heart Association study, flavors drive vaping usage among 18-24 year-olds.
"You know, these companies, have done real harm, to a generation of children,” said Dr. Rose Marie Robertson with the American Heart Association. “And they did that, knowing that nicotine was an addictive drug. You know- it's appalling."
In the Midlands, Dr. Debbie Greenhouse said she’s having the conversation with kids as young as sixth grade about the dangers of e-cigarettes and vaping.
"I think the most important thing for people to understand is that there is so much we don't know,” she said. “We have no idea what is in that vapor... but we do know there are all kinds of things that aren't safe."
Vaping advocates claim the problem is the counterfeit e-cigarettes, laced with THC, the active ingredient in marijuana.
"Yes. Let's be clear,” said Dr. Greenhouse. “No youth should vape just as no youth should use marijuana or alcohol. But there is only one industry the white house is planning to ban to send several million ex-smoking Americans back to cigarettes."
But Dr. Greenhouse said the narrative that e-cigarettes are safer than real cigarettes is a myth.
"I think some of these companies, quite frankly JUUL... with their flavored products and their advertisements... were going after kids,” she said. “And clearly it worked."