Recently, vaping has figured prominently in the news with regards to a mystery respiratory illness. Symptoms include cough, shortness of breath, chest pain, fatigue, fever and gastrointestinal distress. In many cases, lungs have evidence of lipid pneumonia, an inflammation that is linked to inhaling oils.
The common denominator in over 450 suspected cases across 33 states seemed to be vaping. The press responded very quickly, vilifying the vaping industry as a whole. They preyed on fear, magnifying it with unsubstantiated facts. Apparently, to be a journalist today requires no responsibility to tell the truth and check the facts, one merely needs to be a great fiction writer to get a front-page by line.
Over a week later, the truth has begun to surface, and it is exactly what we in the e-cigarette industry suspected. People are becoming ill from tainted cannabis products. New York State has shifted its focus to Vitamin E acetate, an oil derived from vitamin E, as the source of the mystery respiratory illness that affected 34 people in the state. The New York State Department of Health announced that all the NY cases involved at least one THC-containing vape product and that all the samples containing THC that were being analyzed have very high levels of vitamin E acetate.
On Thursday, September 5, the Washington Post reported that the FDA had found vitamin E in THC containing products taken from patients across the country. On Friday, September 6, the CDC held a briefing and stressed that these cases are not tied to a single e-cigarette product or ingredient. A majority of the cases involved vaping products containing THC by inhaling waxes and oils that are heated. In the meantime, the CDC offered this advice: Avoid buying any vaping products sold through the black market, including online.
According to Sven-Eric Jordt, a Duke University researcher who has studied the potential harms of nicotine vaping, vitamin E has never turned up in the “regular” nicotine products that he or other researchers have studied. Nor does vitamin E appear to have been found in any of the legal nicotine-based e-cigarettes taken from patients.
It should also be pointed out that in the United Kingdom where vaping is widely accepted and encouraged as a means to quit cigarettes, not one person has experienced the “mystery illness”. Citizens of the UK use the same vaping devices as Americans, as well as e-liquids that are made the same way any e-liquid from a reputable shop in the US would be. Logic would dictate that there is something out of the ordinary taking place to cause these illnesses. Unfortunately, in the U.S. logic does NOT always dictate.
For many months, the staff at Premium Vapors have been warning customers about Dank Vapes cartridges. Dank Vapes has been showing up as a black-market brand that sells empty cartridges to be filled by individuals. Any individuals. Dank Vapes cartridges have often been seen with unsafe levels of myclobutanil (a fungicide). When myclobutanil is heated, toxic fumes are released including hydrogen cyanide. These larger doses are lethal.
The “mystery illness” is being used by the media as the opening salvo in the battle to totally obliterate vaping in the US using scare tactics, fake news, and disinformation. The battle has been in the planning stages for quite some time. Concern over teen vaping has been on the rise and the only solution seems to be to ban vaping. For everyone. Never mind the millions of ADULTS that have been able to quit smoking as a result of vaping, many of whom would return to smoking without this solution. Yes, teen vaping is a huge problem. That is not disputed. It would seem, however, that the parents of those teens might do a much better job of policing their kids rather than making it everyone’s problem. Guaranteed the majority of the vape supplies teens are using aren’t coming from local vape shops that are required to id-they are being purchased online or on the black market. A mere click to confirm you are 21 will allow vaping purchases on a multitude of online sites. Banning products merely reinforces and spreads black market activity. Without safe, reputable shops to purchase trusted devices and liquids and receive instruction, these same teens will be in further jeopardy when they begin to make their own devices with unsafe batteries and start mixing their own juices with undiluted nicotine, placing them in potentially contaminated cartridges.
On Wednesday, September 4, the Governor of Michigan, Gretchen Whitmer (D), used an executive order to ban flavored e-cigarettes, citing youth vaping as a public health emergency. The governor said sweet flavors are being used to hook young people on nicotine. Menthol and mint flavors will also be banned. The short-sightedness of Michigan’s governor may prove to have even more dire consequences, such as the “mystery illness” that has broken out in the past week. When people cannot obtain what they wish from reputable, safe places, they often turn to riskier sources. Once the country is rid of local vape shops and has properly banned all vaping, I wonder how many more will be hospitalized.