Colorado currently has six cases of severe lung illness associated with vaping in patients 18-24, though the specific cause is still unknown, according to data announced last week by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment.

“As our outbreak report shows, this illness is affecting mostly young Coloradans who reported vaping either marijuana, nicotine or both,” said Dr. Daniel Shodell, deputy director of Disease Control and Environmental Epidemiology at the department. “Our advice has not changed: We want people to quit vaping until we have a clear understanding of what is causing this illness.”

Colorado has reported six outbreak cases and four hospitalizations. The cases involve four men and two women 18-24, with none reported in Pueblo County. Boulder is the only city with more than one case: two.

Two cases in Colorado have involved THC vapes, though another case involved a consumer of both nicotine and THC products, according to data from the Department of Public Health and Environment.

Twenty-six percent of high school students in Colorado reported vaping in the past month, according to data from the 2019 Monitoring the Future Survey funded by the National Institute on Drug Abuse. Meanwhile, Colorado ranks No. 1 nationwide in vape use by teens among 37 states reporting to the 2017 national Youth Risk Behavior Survey.

People who vape should be on the lookout for these symptoms: shortness of breath or trouble breathing, chest pain, cough, fatigue, and possible fever, according to the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment. People should not buy vaping products off the street, modify vaping products, or add any substances to products that are not intended by the manufacturer. People who think they may have been sickened by any vaping product should contact their doctor, local health department, or poison control at 800-222-1222.

The best way for the public to avoid counterfeit vape cartridges is to purchase products from reputable retailers or dispensaries, says WeedMaps, a platform connecting users to cannabis products and brands in Colorado. It says the biggest threat posed by bootleg cartridges are high levels of pesticides.

Meanwhile, toxic metals, including lead, could leak from the heating coils of e-cigarettes and seep into the aerosol that is inhaled, according to a 2018 study conducted by scientists at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.

"Verification is especially timely in Colorado, where total licensed listings have increased nearly 4,000% since January of this year," said Travis Rexroad, director of public Relations at Weedmaps.

About 500 "verified" products made in Colorado are offered through Weedmaps' online ordering, pickup and delivery service, Rexroad said, adding that WeedMaps "has protected Colorado consumers from 15,000 fake cannabis products."

“The reality is that you won’t know for sure if a product is authentic unless you hear it straight from the brand itself.”

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