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Vaping? You'll have to be 21 in St. Louis County

Surrounded by about 100 custom flavor juices and sample tanks, Mallory Immethun, 20, vapes while awaiting customers at Stella Blues Vapors in Fenton on Wednesday, Sept. 7, 2016. The St. Louis County Council voted on Tuesday to ban the sale of tobacco and electronic nicotine delivery systems to anyone under the age of 21 beginning in December. Immethun, who began smoking cigarettes at 17 and began vaping at 18, will escape the ban as she turns 21 in November. Photo by Robert Cohen, rcohen@post-dispatch.com

ST. LOUIS — Two cases of lung illness associated with the use of e-cigarettes have been reported in Missouri over the past two weeks, and seven more possible cases are under investigation, state health department officials said in a news release Thursday.

The state could not provide any more information about the individuals and severity of their cases, but St. Louis Children’s Hospital has confirmed that the pediatric hospital is caring for two patients with possible illnesses related to vaping.

“If we receive more reports in the future that allow us to provide aggregate data on the location, ages and illness severity in these patients, we will do so,” Lisa Cox, a spokeswoman for the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services, said in an email. “Because there are currently just nine cases under investigation, we are unable to delineate these cases any further due to the fact that it could cause identification of those patients.”

Across the country, health officials are investigating hundreds of breathing illnesses in people who use e-cigarettes and other vaping devices. They have identified 450 possible cases in 33 states, including six deaths.

President Donald Trump on Wednesday announced he would seek a federal ban of most flavored e-cigarettes, which are becoming increasingly popular among high school students.

No single vaping device, ingredient or additive has been identified with the illnesses, though many cases involve products with THC, the high-producing ingredient in marijuana, according the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Others involved products with only nicotine, and some involved a combination.

“Health officials around the nation are working hard to identify the cause of this outbreak, to prevent additional illnesses and protect health,” said Dr. Randall Williams, DHSS director. “Missourians are encouraged to follow the CDC guidance to refrain from using e-cigarette products if you are concerned about these specific health risks, especially while the investigation is ongoing.”

Symptoms include cough, chest pain, shortness of breath, fatigue and vomiting. The illness can be so severe that patients require breathing machines to recover.

Health officials warn against purchasing vaping products off the street, or modifying or adding substances to products. If concerned about symptoms, get connected to your local poison control center by calling 1-800-222-1222.