FILE - Vape products, nicotine

Is Wisconsin's vape sickness problem really a marijuana sickness problem?

The Wisconsin Department of Health Services said that almost 90 percent of people interviewed after they went to the hospital with breathing problems or pneumonia-like symptoms told doctors that they vaped marijuana or THC oils and products beforehand. 

“Vaping cartridges containing THC may include chemicals or additives that are unknown, unregulated and unsafe,” Department of Health Services Secretary-designee Andrea Palm said. 

DHS is not saying that THC vaping is the cause of the state's vape sickness outbreak. Doctors in other states are not saying how many of their cases are related to THC either. 

But Wisconsin is stepping up its plea for people to not vape things that they don't know about. 

“We strongly urge people not to vape," Palm said Thursday. 

Health Services Chief Medical Officer John Meiman said part of the puzzle now is to find out where the THC vape products and other possibly tainted vape products are coming from. 

"Because it's not a legal product, there's no regulation. We don't know what chemicals could be in there, we don't know if any of them could be causing illness," Meiman said. "Typically products that are illegal like this can be obtained from friends, they can be obtained from dealers, in rare instances they can be obtained from stores. There's no real commonality to it."  

DHS said as of Thursday 32 people have been confirmed as sick in Wisconsin from vaping. There are 11 possible cases of vape sickness. 

The Centers for Disease Control said earlier this week that nearly 200 people in 23 states have gotten sick after vaping.  One Illinois person died.  

Staff Writer

An industry veteran with two decades of experience in media, Benjamin Yount reports on Illinois and Wisconsin statewide issues for The Center Square.