Washington (AFP)

The epidemic of vaping-related lung disease continues in the United States, federal health authorities said on Thursday, still puzzling over exactly why, while Los Angeles plans to ban flavored electronic cigarettes.

Patients continue to report to hospitals, said Thursday Anne Schuchat, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, during a conference call with the press. The total number is 530 confirmed and probable cases, and seven deaths. More than half of the patients are under 25 years old, and three-quarters are men, she said. 16% of patients are under 18 years old.

The FDA's drug testing labs have more than 150 suspect specimens, but still have not identified the substance or substances responsible for these acute lung diseases, said Mitch Zeller, director of the Center for Disease Control. tobacco to the FDA.

"There is no common denominator about the product (s) used, how they are used, where they were purchased, and what may have happened between the moment the user gets them and the moment they are sprayed. and inhaled, "insisted Mitch Zeller.

Investigators are very cautious about the possible cause of diseases, be it a brand, a product, or a sales channel.

In many cases, the refills involved contained THC, the psychoactive principle of cannabis. These refills are mostly bought from dealers in the street or on the internet, since cannabis remains illegal in a part of the United States.

There may also be counterfeit refills, with poorly identified ingredients.

The FDA tests the samples to identify with what nicotine or THC have been cut, and to detect the presence of diluents, other additives, pesticides, poisons or toxins.

The criminal investigation bureau of the federal agency is now involved, said Mitch Zeller.

- Los Angeles -

In July, the health authorities realized that something was happening in connection with vaping, with many young people suffering from severe breathing difficulties, coughs, chest pains and even nausea.

Most of the victims said they had vapoted cannabis liquids, but some said they used only nicotine liquids.

Meanwhile, Michigan and New York have decided to ban flavored electronic cigarettes, mainly because the aromas (such as mint, menthol, red fruits, mango or candy ...) are attractive to young people. Tobacco e-cigarettes will remain authorized.

The city of Los Angeles could follow suit. The prosecutor of the metropolis Mike Feuer recommended Thursday the prohibition to the city council of the city in a report.

India, on the other hand, banned all types of electronic cigarettes, flavored or not, this week.

"This is a complex investigation, so do not expect definitive answers imminently," said Anne Schuchat.

Sign of the concern in the US Congress against this data, Republican and Democratic parliamentarians allied themselves in a rare union to launch Thursday a group fighting against vaping among young people.

"Victims go beyond the differences between parties, ethnic groups, socio-economic or geographical origins," Raja Krishnamoorthi, elected Democratic co-founder of the group, told AFP. "The epidemic is so vast that everyone is affected at this stage."

The Democrat warmly applauded the recent announcement by Donald Trump's government that flavored electronic cigarettes would be banned for sale in the coming months at the national level. A good first step, provided you also include mint flavors, he insisted in a press conference.

"We must end this vape epidemic among young people," added the other leader of this group, the Republican Peter King. "This is a serious health crisis."

© 2019 AFP