The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has launched an investigation into five deaths and 450 lung illnesses linked to patient use of vaping devices.
Vaping is attractive as a smokeless alternative and a quitting aid for tobacco smokers. The habit has become increasingly popular with the release of pod technology by companies like JUUL. Like cigarettes of old, the new vaping devices have attracted the attention of minors.
Nicotine vaping systems can also be converted to hold cannabis oil with concentrated levels of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the drug’s psychoactive compound. Investigators found that 80% of patients had used illegal TCH vapes:
On Friday, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration warned consumers against using vaping devices bought “on the street” or adding THC and other substances to products purchased in stores. E-cigarette manufacturers have distanced themselves from illicit “street vapes” and stressed that their products don’t contain the liquids under scrutiny.
“We agree with the FDA. If you don’t want to die or end up in a hospital, stop vaping illegal THC oils immediately,” said Gregory Conley, president of the American Vaping Association.
Meaney-Delman said investigators are not yet ready to distinguish between products. The data she has reviewed show that 60 percent of patients used both THC and nicotine, while 20 percent reported only using nicotine in their devices.
The CDC said vapers should monitor themselves for symptoms such as shortness of breath, cough, vomiting and chest pain and see a doctors if they experience any such symptoms. Vapers likely see vaping as a healthier alternative to smoking, but as health officials investigate, the jury’s still out.