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By now, vapers all over America may be aware of the news of a sudden rise in vaping-related illnesses, which has prompted the government to act by imposing bans on the sale of vape products in more and more states.
If you are a vaper who is still confused about the whole issue, you’ll want a summary of what has been going on and what may happen next in the near future. Here are 8 things you need to know about this whole mess regarding reports of vaping-related illnesses and the flavored vape ban that is poised to follow.
There has been a slew of news regarding vaping and people of ages ranging from 15 to 50 being stricken with vaping-related illnesses. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 530 separate cases in 38 states and the US Virgin Islands have been recorded.
The first case was noted by the public health department on August 14, and there are 13 cases in Connecticut alone. A total of 8 deaths have been reported across the US as of this writing, with two from California, and one each in Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, and Oregon.
In all of these cases, patients have reported a history of vaping, and almost all of them acknowledged having used products containing tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), which is the primary psychoactive ingredient in cannabis.
While these cases do involve illnesses related to vaping, the CDC and state health agencies have not yet found a specific cause for them. There is still no single vaping product that has been linked directly to these cases.
Connecticut health commissioner, Renee Coleman-Mitchell, has declared the situation “a serious public health concern” and has advised residents to refrain from vaping while investigations are underway.
The American Medical Association released a statement on September 9, advising the public to avoid vaping. The next day, on September 10, President Donald Trump expressed his thoughts on banning flavored vape products in legal e-cigarettes.
The Trump administration has since announced plans for banning the sale of most flavored vaping products from the market due to this development. Meanwhile, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has now opened a criminal probe into the vaping-related illnesses.
Michigan was the first state to enact a ban earlier this month amid reports of these cases, cited as an emergency ban by Governor Gretchen Whitmer. It is a tentative six-month prohibition, which can be extended, and Gov. Whitmer has expressed her hopes in legislators writing it into law.
New York soon followed suit, with the state’s Public Health and Health Planning Council voting to prohibit the sale of all flavored e-cigarettes and other vaping products except for menthol and tobacco flavors. Retailers were given two weeks from the date of announcement to remove said products from their shelves.
Several other states, including California and Massachusetts, are now outlining plans to impose similar bans in their respective jurisdictions. As of September 25, Massachusetts has imposed a “temporary ban” on sale of all vape products in the state.
In many of these cases, symptoms are similar to a condition called lipoid pneumonia, which is usually found in patients who have inhaled mineral oil.
Acute lipoid pneumonia occurs when fat particles enter the lungs, which then causes inflammation. There are two types of lipoid pneumonia—exogenous and endogenous. The former refers to fat particles entering from outside the body, while the latter refers to fat particles from within the body accumulating in the lungs.
Source: BMJ Case Reports
Endogenous lipoid pneumonia is also known as cholesterol pneumonia, golden pneumonia, or idiopathic lipoid pneumonia.
The most common symptoms of lipoid pneumonia are chest pain, chronic cough, and breathing difficulty. It may also be accompanied by fever, nausea, dizziness, fatigue, blood in sputum, weight loss, night sweats, and difficulty in swallowing.
As of this writing, two possible culprits are being scrutinized—THC and vitamin E.
The CDC has stated on September 19 that the contamination of vape cartridges is coming from the supply chain for illicit THC vape cartridges. This is mostly surmised from reports of most patients having used vape products containing THC.
Meanwhile, New York health authorities have confirmed that synthetic vitamin E oil, also known as tocopheryl acetate, as another cause. It is mostly used by pen makers as an inexpensive thickener and dilutant to "cut" the very expensive cabbabis/THC oil to make it appear that there is more in a cartridge.
The FDA is now looking into specific forms of vitamin E oil, which is usually used for both health supplements and industrial applications. While people know about it being taken orally, it’s not recommended to be consumed in vapor form due to its causal relationship with lipoid pneumonia.
The state of New York has now subpoenaed three thickener manufacturers in connection with the use of vitamin E oil in vape products, namely Floraplex, Honey Cut, and Mass Terpenes. All three products have been proven to contain tocopheryl acetate in tests.
The FDA has also found vitamin E oil in 10 of the 18 THC samples they’ve tested so far. One New York patient reports having tested his cart, finding out that it contained formaldehyde and pesticide along with THC and vitamin E oil.
These two are now being cited as the main culprits of these vaping-related illnesses, which should shift the blame away from nicotine vape products.
Vape users are reacting to the news with a mixture of shock and disdain. There are even speculations of tobacco companies facilitating misinformation fueling the panic over vape products, although these claims are yet to be substantiated.
Vaping blogs, forums, and social media communities are now putting up massive efforts to have their voices heard by the government, both state and federal level.
Vape users are using social media to communicate how vaping saved their lives, and that the eliquid flavor ban should stop. They're using hashtags such as #vapingsaveslives, #adultslikeflavors, and #prohibitiondoesnotwork on their posts to spread awareness.
There are even online petitions which goal is to stop Trump from signing the federal flabor ban of e-cig products.
Vape store owners everywhere are greatly concerned as the growing issue has negatively affected business. Legitimate vape manufacturers are also threatened, with the entire American market being potentially closed off by the prospect of a national vape ban.
The ill effects of prohibition are well-documented in the annals of American history. A vape ban can result in the expansion of the illicit vape market, giving rise to unregulated vape products that are potentially harmful to health, which is counter to the very reason of the existence of vaping—to fight the good fight against tobacco.
This ultimately affects the vapers, especially those who have turned to vaping to curtail their tobacco habits. With no legitimate source of vape products, they may either turn to illicit vape markets for their vaping needs or go back to tobacco. Either option is a significant health risk.
Our voices must be heard. If you’re an American citizen living in the country, call your governor, state representatives, senators, and the Department of Public Health to voice your concern and explain how much a national vape ban can be a detriment to American citizens.
If you are a vaper whose life and health have been improved or saved with vaping in an effort to quit tobacco, tell your story. Implore them to get the science straight and inform them of how a vape ban can have people going back to tobacco.
Tell them how jobs, businesses, and an entire industry may be wiped out with the enactment of a vape ban in all of America.
As mentioned, the cause of these vaping-related illnesses have not yet been pinpointed. Vaping legitimate vape cartridges or eliquid, like Cafe Racer Vape, isn't the cause of concern. In fact, vaping has helped save lives, letting countless people free from the bondage of tobacco.
On the other hand, illicit vape cartridges tend to be unregulated, untested, and often contaminated. If you are in possession of such products, throw them away immediately.
Avoid procuring vape products off the street and buy only from legitimate sources, either from established vape shops or reputable online sellers, who are licensed to sell vape products that come from regulated brands that prioritize quality and safety.
Be wary of disposable vape cartridges sold outside these channels, whether they contain THC or nicotine. They're usually filled with the wrong additives in the wrong amounts, which can immediately bring harm to your lungs.
This is indeed a scary situation for vapers, not just in America, but all over the world. A national vape ban in the country can create a snowball effect that can affect the global vape industry.
We can all do our part and let our voices be heard so calm and reason may prevail. Support your local vape shop! We must act as one and stand together as a community.