The finger is pointed at vaping as the source of respiratory illnesses – and sadly even fatalities – among several hundred teens and young adults in the United States.
The all too common error is to blame these terrible diseases on vaping. However, just as the needle can’t be blamed for an overdose, the vaping device can’t be blamed for these illnesses. The culprit is what a person consumed.
Illegal THC Cartridges
The evidence is mounting that the source of these illnesses is the consumption of illegal, black market THC cartridges containing dangerous adulterants.
In Illinois, for example, over 84 percent of those taken ill reported vaping illicit THC cartridges. Even more teens probably used them, because there are reports of denials that were later found to be false. It’s understandable – what teen wants their parents to know they took illegal drugs?
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) National Youth Tobacco Survey found that the rate of teens vaping THC products increased by 60 percent from 8.6 percent in 2016 to 13.8 in 2018. Another recently published survey found that THC vaping among American college students more than doubled from 5.2 percent in 2017 to 10.8 in 2018.
The CDC has been inaccurately classifying all teens who vape any substance (including THC) as “e-cigarette users” and “tobacco users.” This explains why the CDC has not only reported a huge increase in e-cigarette and tobacco use among teens but also why it has told the media that e-cigarettes (instead of illicit THC vapor products) are to blame for the recent lung illnesses.
THC Vapor Products
Fourteen states have legalized the sale of THC vapor products for either recreational or medical cannabis. Their dispensaries are licensed and their products tested. But since nationwide demand for THC vaping products has skyrocketed in recent years, the manufacture, sales, and use of illicit THC vape products have also increased sharply.
A complete picture of how illicit THC vapor products are made and marketed is not yet clear. A recent bust of two brothers in Wisconsin confiscated over 98,000 empty cartridges, THC oil, other drugs, cash, and guns. The police estimated that their operation turned out between 3,000 and 5,000 THC cartridges a day.
Police arrested 2 men in a drug bust in Kenosha, Wisconsin, for manufacturing and selling THC-laced vaping cartridges, an illegal practice that could be driving the lung-related illness linked to vaping https://t.co/VzqufTfCpI
— Axios (@axios) September 15, 2019
After more than a decade since the introduction of both nicotine and THC vaping products, the sudden appearance of serious illnesses among illicit THC vapor product users in many (but not all) U.S. states points to a contaminated source.
In the face of this public health crisis, pointing at e-cigarettes or even vaping as the problem is not only incorrect, it diverts attention from the critical need for public health authorities to warn Americans not to use illicit THC vapor products. Drug education for youth also must be expanded to include warnings about vaping illegal THC cartridges.
If we fail to address this situation correctly and timely, not only will more THC vapers become ill, but many confused and scared nicotine vapers will switch back to smoking far more harmful cigarettes.Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial position of The Globe Post.