Wednesday October 16, 2019

Investigation of Vaping-Related Illnesses Focus on Products that Contain Marijuana Compound THC

But officials said they didn't know whether the THC was the problem or some other substance added to the vaping liquid

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Investigation, Vaping, Illnesses
FILE - So far, investigators have not identified a particular device, liquid or ingredient behind the U.S. outbreak of severe vaping-related illnesses. VOA

U.S. health officials said Friday that their investigation into an outbreak of severe vaping-related illnesses was increasingly focused on products that contain the marijuana compound THC.

Most of the 800 people who got sick vaped THC, the ingredient in marijuana that causes a high, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. But officials said they didn’t know whether the THC was the problem or some other substance added to the vaping liquid, such as thickeners.

“The outbreak currently is pointing to a greater concern around THC-containing products,” said the CDC’s Dr. Anne Schuchat.

So far, investigators have not identified a particular e-cigarette, vaping device, liquid or ingredient behind the outbreak. But officials say patients have mentioned the name Dank Vapes most frequently. Many of the people who got sick in Illinois and Wisconsin said they used prefilled THC cartridges sold in Dank Vapes packaging.

Investigation, Vaping, Illnesses
U.S. health officials said Friday that their investigation into an outbreak of severe vaping-related illnesses was increasingly focused on products that contain. Pixabay

No single store or distributor

“It’s a generic product name that doesn’t really tie back to one store or one distributor,” said Dr. Jennifer Layden, chief medical officer for the Illinois Department of Public Health.

“Folks are getting it from friends or folks on the street, with no understanding of where it came from prior to that.” she said Friday.

Until a cause is pinned down, the CDC continues to advise Americans to consider avoiding all vaping products, though the agency on Friday added the phrase “particularly those containing THC.”

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“We didn’t feel comfortable dropping the broader recommendation yet,” said Schuchat.

This week, the CDC reported 805 confirmed and probable cases of the lung illness. Thirteen people have died. Only the U.S. has reported such an outbreak, although Canadian officials this week confirmed that country’s first case.

On Friday, the agency provided more details in two reports:

— The first case in the U.S. began in late March. Cases ramped up in late June and rose dramatically in late July.

Investigation, Vaping, Illnesses
Most of the 800 people who got sick vaped THC, the ingredient in marijuana that causes a high, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Pixabay

— The median age of those who have become ill is 23. But the median age of those who have died is much older — 50.

— Nationally, 9 in 10 cases required hospitalization. Many young and previously healthy adolescents and young adults needed machines to help them breathe.

— In Illinois and Wisconsin, patients mentioned 87 different product names and many vaped more than one.

Similar to injury

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Doctors say the illnesses resemble an inhalation injury. Symptoms have included shortness of breath, fatigue, chest pain, diarrhea and vomiting.

Officials continue to find a substantial numbers of U.S. patients — the new report says 16% — who said they vaped only nicotine, and not THC. But the report noted that in Wisconsin, five patients who initially denied using products with THC turned out to have used them.

The most illnesses have occurred in California, Illinois, Texas and Wisconsin. (VOA)

Next Story

Federal Judge Uphold Massachusetts’ Four-Month Ban on Sale of Vaping Products

U.S. District Judge Indira Talwani denied the vaping industry’s request for a temporary reprieve from the ban while their legal challenge plays out.

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Federal Judge, Massachusetts, Vaping
Demonstrators gather at the Massachusetts State House to protest against the state’s four-month ban of all vaping product sales in Boston, Oct. 3, 2019. VOA

A federal judge upheld Massachusetts’ four-month ban on the sale of vaping products Friday, at least for now.

U.S. District Judge Indira Talwani denied the vaping industry’s request for a temporary reprieve from the ban while their legal challenge plays out in Boston federal court, saying the plaintiffs did not show they would likely succeed on the merits of the case or that the “balance of hardships” weighs in their favor. Talwani had said in a hearing earlier in the day that the legal motion felt premature and that the public health concerns prompting the ban likely outweigh any short-term impacts to local businesses.

Another court hearing is set for Oct. 15 where both sides are expected to deliver more extensive arguments in the case.

Lawyers representing local vape shops argued that small, independent operators are being disproportionally hurt by the ban, with many forced to lay off staff or close their shops entirely.

Federal Judge, Massachusetts, Vaping
Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker speaks with reporters, Sept. 16, 2019, at the Statehouse, in Boston. VOA

“You’re saying I ought to be more concerned about the economic harm to businesses for a two-week period than the potential people who will end up in the hospital during this two-week period?” Talwani asked industry lawyers at one point during the hearing.

Republican Gov. Charlie Baker issued the ban and declared a public health emergency Sept. 24 after more than 60 potential cases of lung disease related to the use of electronic cigarettes and vaping were reported to the state.

The state Public Health Department has since said at least 10 represent probable or confirmed cases of lung illness caused by e-cigarette products. Nationwide, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has said 18 have died and 1,080 people have been sickened.

Baker has said the ban will allow health officials to determine the cause of the illnesses and decide what further steps are required.

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At least three lawsuits have been filed in state and federal court challenging Massachusetts’ ban, which runs through Jan. 25, 2020, and is considered among the harshest imposed on the industry. Several states, including Michigan, Oregon and Rhode Island, have issued some kind of ban. On Thursday, an appeals court in New York temporarily blocked the state from enforcing a proposed ban on sales of flavored e-cigarettes.

The Vapor Technology Association, a national trade group that’s challenging the bans, argued in its federal lawsuit in Massachusetts that the ban will cause “irreparable harm” to their multimillion-dollar industry.

It also said the ban poses a public health risk by eliminating what it argues is a safer alternative to tobacco and forcing those seeking vaping products to find them on the black market. (VOA)