Aug. 29 (UPI) -- The city of Milwaukee has issued a health alert to residents, urging them to stop using electronic cigarettes immediately, following several recent hospitalizations due to chemical pneumonia.
The alert Wednesday cited a surge in lung ailments that doctors suspect could be linked to e-cigarettes, or "vaping."
Federal health officials said there have been nearly 200 potential cases recently linked to e-cigarettes in 22 states. Sixteen have been hospitalized in Wisconsin with severe chemical pneumonitis, or chemical pneumonia, which causes inflammation of the lungs. Another 15 cases are being investigated.
"We continue to learn more about the health effects associated with e-cigarettes," Milwaukee Health Commissioner Jeanette Kowalik said in a statement. "As the public health authority for the city, the MHD is committed to protecting the public from the dangers of second-hand exposure."
Officials said all the patients reported using vape products in the weeks before they were sickened. Doctors aren't yet certain of what's causing the inflamed lungs, but officials have urged smokers not to use products that contain THC, a primary chemical found in marijuana.
"I understand citizens are going to say and business owners: 'Hey, this is a legal product. I can sell it.' They can, but I think the health commissioner has to take it to a higher level," Milwaukee Alderman Mike Murphy said.
Authorities recommended that those who experience anorexia, cough, diarrhea, fatigue, fever, nausea, chest pain or shortness of breath after e-cigarette use should be seen by a doctor.
A vaping death was reported in Illinois last week.