What has transpired in recent weeks and what you need to know about vaping dangers….

Kim DelMonico. ocbmagonline.com Investigative contributor

In mid-September, Ocbmagonline.com published a piece entitled, “Is Vaping a Public Health Crisis Or Is More Research Needed?” In this piece, we investigated claims that vaping is a “safer” alternative to smoking, examined scientific studies that looked at the safety of vaping, and offered practical tips for safer vaping.

Since that time, the vaping crisis has only gotten worse. Recent developments include: Identifying the culprit; which is Vitamin E acetate, the official naming of the vaping illness, the stepping down of the CEO of a popular vaping brand, and more details about exactly what substances and brands may be causing the illness.
Vaping-Associated Pulmonary Illness (VAPI)

The vaping illness now has an official name “vaping-associated pulmonary illness” or VAPI. So far, VAPI has been associated with twelve deaths and 805 confirmed and probable cases in the United States.

Symptoms of VAPI include shortness of breath, coughing and chest pain, gastrointestinal issues, fever, and weight loss. Most patients’ chest X-rays or CT scans show hazy, white opaque areas in the lungs, but there’s typically no infection. Almost all patients are hospitalized, and many require help breathing.

JUUL Labs CEO Steps Down

The most popular of all vaping brands is JUUL Labs. In the midst of so many people becoming sick and dying from VAPI, JUUL Labs announced that its CEO, Kevin Burns, has stepped down.

JUUL Labs also announced that it would be “suspending all broadcast, print and digital product advertising in the U.S.” and that it would be “refraining from lobbying the administration on its draft guidance” that proposes banning fruit-flavored vaping products, unless approved by the Food and Drug Administration, in an attempt to make the e-cigarettes less available to young consumers.

JUUL Labs named K.C. Crosthwaite its new CEO. K.C. Crosthwaite comes to JUUL with over two decades of global operational, management, stakeholder and regulatory engagement experience. As Chief Growth Officer at Altria Group Inc., he oversaw the company’s expansion into alternatives to combustible cigarettes and played a key role in the commercial and regulatory efforts related to the U.S. launch of IQOS.

Dangerous Vape Ingredients and Brands

Earlier this month, the Wisconsin Department of Health Services (WDHS) and the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) published preliminary results of their ongoing investigation into reports of lung disease that was probably associated with using e-cigarettes or related products in the New England Journal of Medicine.  In the preliminary results, the study authors found that the majority of patients that they examined had used vaping devices containing tetrahydrocannabinol or THC.  Does this mean that only vapes containing THC are dangerous?  Not necessarily, since it’s been identified that the culprit is vitamin E acetate.

The researchers examined 53 case patients, 83% of whom were male.  The median age of the patients was 19 years. The majority of patients presented had respiratory symptoms (98%), gastrointestinal symptoms (81%), and constitutional symptoms (100%).  All case patients had bilateral infiltrates on chest imaging.

A total of 94% of the patients were hospitalized, 32% underwent intubation and mechanical ventilation, and one death was reported. A total of 84% of the patients reported having used THC products in e-cigarette devices.

Patients reported using 14 different brands of THC products and 13 brands of nicotine products in a wide range of flavors. The most common THC product that was reported was marketed under the “Dank Vape” label,  About 59% of all patients, or 24 of 41 patients, reported using “Dank Vape” brand.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and state and local health agencies have all been investigating cases of VAPI to determine the cause.  While the FDA does have conclusive data about exactly what caused the cases of VAPI, it did note that many of the samples that it tested contained THC and significant amounts of Vitamin E acetate.  Vitamin E acetate is a substance that is present in topical consumer products or dietary supplements, but there is very limited data about its effects after inhalation.

While the FDA does conclude that Vitamin E acetate causes VAPI. Cannabis consumers cannot be sure whether any THC vaping products may contain Vitamin E acetate, consumers are urged to avoid buying vaping products on the street, and to refrain from using THC oil or modifying/adding any substances to products purchased in stores. Additionally, no youth should be using any vaping product, regardless of the substance.”

While the FDA, has determined that Vitamin E acetate is the cause of VAPI, a few popular vaping-related products containing Vitamin E were recently pulled off the market:

  • Honey Cut’s website has gone offline.
  • Terpene maker Floraplex has taken down its sales page for its product Uber Thick.
  • Mr. Extractor has stopped selling its thickener Clear Cut.
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