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Health officials warn public to stop vaping

Health Commissioner says 41 have health symptoms
Posted at 5:55 PM, Sep 09, 2019
and last updated 2019-09-09 17:55:48-04

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WKBW) — A mysterious illness is making hundreds of people sick in dozens of states. Including New York.

So, the state is cracking down on vaping, but local vape shops say they're not the problem.

"Anywhere in New York State, between 20-40% of people have used a vaping product in the last 30 days, so it's a significant portion of the population," said Erie County Health Commissioner Gale Burstein.

Among those users is Andrew Obsorne who owns Vapor Trails in South Buffalo.

"Not only did vaping save my life, but I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that we spend every day at this business helping people save their own lives using vaping products," said Osborne.

Osborne is also Vice President of the New York State Vapor Association. He says it's not the products you get in a vape shop that are making people sick, but products you get on the street or the internet.

"These illegal black market THC marijuana products, E-joints if you want to call them that. Those are hurting people," said Osborne.

But it doesn't matter where you get the product, according to Dr. Burstein.

"The Governor announced that as of today there have been 41 reported cases in New York State...The severe lung disease that is causing people to be hospitalized is from black market products, however we can't guarantee the safety of anything people are using," said Dr. Burstein.

So she wants people to stop vaping immediately.

Governor Andrew Cuomo is taking things a step further. He announced plans Monday to mandate warning signs in all vape shops and to ban flavored e-cigarettes.

Osborne and Vapor Association representatives say this is not the answer.

"When the Governor tells people that they should refrain from using the vaping products they already use, what he's actually saying is, you should go back to smoking," said Osborne.

"That’s like saying if people are getting sick from romaine lettuce and they said don’t eat anything until we figure it out for sure. That’s not possible, it’s not an option to stop eating completely and that’s what they’re asking people to do," said Spike Babian, Technical Analysis Director for the NYS VA.

Governor Cuomo says the health department will continue testing vaping and marijuana products to ensure safety. He urges anyone with symptoms to call their doctor.

Dr. Burstein says smokers should look for help with quitting.