Not One E-Cigarette Brand Linked To Outbreaks, CDC Finds

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CDC Has Yet To Identify A Single Nicotine Vapor Product In Investigation

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) initial lack of clear information may have potentially exacerbated the outbreak of the misleadingly named EVALI or “e-cigarette, or vaping, product use associated lung injury.” Thankfully for public health at large, the ensuing investigation and statements clarifying their findings have given more insight into what has actually caused these outbreaks.

The CDC issued a statement noting that not a single nicotine-vaping product or brand has been responsible for these illnesses, but identified a handful of products sold in the illicit THC oil cartridge market. To clarify, not a single regulated nicotine vapor product has been identified in any case; all vaping-related injuries to date have been solely attributed to illegally produced THC cartridges spiked with additives and cutting agents.

Members of the vaping industry and community have commended the clarification, but note the CDC’s initially confusing and vague warnings against vaping have led to a negative public perception against vaping and a resulting unnecessary regulatory crackdown across the country. Anti-vaping activists continue to state that additional investigations are necessary and to avoid all vaping until the investigations are complete.

The CDC has stated that initial warnings against vaping were issued in response to the speed and scale of the outbreaks, with the only identified common factor being that users currently vaped or had previously vaped. These initial statements that warned against using any “e-cigarette, or vaping products” may have potentially worsened outbreaks by making users of illegal THC carts believe that only nicotine vapor product users were the only ones at risk.

THC Not Nicotine

On December 6th, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued an update in their investigation into the outbreak of the misleadingly named EVALI or “e-cigarette, or vaping, product use associated lung injury.” In the statement, the agency identified a handful of popular “brands” in the illicit cannabis oil cartridge industry.

Dank Vapes had accounted for a staggering 56% of the brands identified by the agency. Other common bootleg THC cartridge brands identified included TKO accounting for 15%, Smart Cart accounting for 13%, and Rove responsible for 12%.

More often than not, these “brands” are simply labels purchased in bulk from China and manually filled by street dealers. These cartridges are at best filled with distillate produced from cannabis unfit for sale or consumption for reasons such as mold or excessive pesticides, and at worse are cut with thinning agents such as vitamin E acetate that have been responsible for a majority of cases in the outbreak.

The CDC says that 20% of users claimed to have never vaped any THC-containing products and that their investigation is still ongoing as additional products are being looked into, but didn’t clarify if this information was self-reported by patients. But it may be worth mentioning that there are many reasons why a person, or particularly a young adult, may not want to admit to using illicit products in front of a government official, medical professional, or their parents.

Facts On Vaping

There is data to back the assertion that the CDC’s initial misinformation may have not only damaged the perception of the vaping industry, but the lack of clear information may have led the most vulnerable group of users to believe they weren’t at risk of injury. A nationwide survey conducted in September found that up to 58% of adults believed EVALI outbreaks were caused by nicotine-containing vapor products, with as little as 22% believing that vaping is less harmful than smoking.

It’s unfortunate that flagrant misinformation and lazy journalism have negatively impacted something that has improved the lives of so many smokers by aiding in smoking cessation. Research out of the University of Louisville found vaping to be the most effective smoking cessation device available, more than even prescription options such as Chantix.

In addition to its remarkable efficacy as a smoking cessation device, vaping has routinely been demonstrated to be a reduced-harm alternative to tobacco. A landmark study conducted by Public Health England found vaping to be 95% safer than smoking, an impressive figure the country’s top public health agency routinely defends and stands behind.

Furthermore, there is no evidence noting any long-term harm or risk to users of e-cigarettes and other vapor products. A report from the National Academy of Sciences found that not only is vaping less harmful than smoking, but there were no long-term health effects associated with prolonged vaping.

Implications

The CDC notes that outbreaks may have peaked in September, although it continues to caution against using THC vapor products acquired from anywhere but directly from a licensed dispensary. In addition, the investigators note that while vitamin E acetate has been identified as a culprit in a majority of cases, they are continuing to investigate additional substances and products for the potential role they may play in these outbreaks.

Thankfully, updated statements from the CDC identifying specific products to avoid help ensure additional people don’t fall subject to EVALI. However, for the now maligned vaping industry, these clarifications may be too little too late.

Just because there is less scrutiny on the vaping industry now than in prior months, does not mean it is time for the community to become complacent. Multiple states are in the process of enacting various forms of prohibition against vaping. Members of the vaping community must remain committed to civil discourse and civic engagement to help shift the momentum against vaping.

Do you believe the CDC may have potentially exacerbated EVALI outbreaks by targeting e-cigarettes over the THC cartridges responsible for them? Do you believe the updated clarifications may be beneficial in undoing the harm they’ve caused against the vaping industry? We’d love to hear from you in the comments below, be sure to like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter to receive all the latest vaping news!

(Image Credit – Pixabay – https://pixabay.com/images/id-3815114/)

Jimmy, lover, blogger, vaper and ex-smoker. I’ve been blogging about and supporting Vaping since 2009. They changed my life and I think history will show them as one of the most significant public health invention of the 21st century.

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