Nicotine vaping has been under fire recently due to vaping-related deaths and illnesses, and it’s unknown effect on the lungs. What was once seen as a better and safer alternative to traditional tobacco use, has resulted in deaths across the country from people as young as 13 and as old as 75, according to the Center for Disease Control. Although smoking-related deaths and health issues continue to occur every day in America, nicotine vaping gained considerable attention in the media as something to avoid.
Because of the epidemic, Juul, an electronic cigarettes giant, recently pulled flavors like mango and fruit punch in an attempt to stay afloat among the backlash. The fruity flavors were attributed to young peoples’ desire to start using the product.
“We must reset the vapor category by earning the trust of society and working cooperatively with regulators, policymakers, and stakeholders to combat underage use while providing an alternative to adult smokers,” Juul CEO K.C. Crosthwaite said in a statement.
What’s missing though? The notion that THC (tetrahydrocannabinol, the psychoactive chemical in cannabis) cartridges are largely to blame for the epidemic, but flew under the radar the early stages of the phenomenon. THC cartridges, in short, are made by compressing marijuana until it becomes a sticky, often golden-colored liquid, then adding various ingredients like terpenes, a chemical compound derived from cannabis, among others. The concoction is sealed up in a cylindrical glass tube, screwed to a lithium-ion battery and is ready for the consumer.
Recreational marijunana is still outlawed in most of the country, leaving consumers to only have access to THC cartridges under a black market system, but cartridges from dispensaries in recreational states are still subject to skepticism and are by no means considered any safer. Many cartridges meant for the black market often imitate more popular brands of recreational THC cartridges like Kingpin or Brass Knuckles tricking the consumer into thinking they’re the real deal, when they could really be filled with just about anything.
The CDC reported 1,479 lung injury cases associated with the use of e-cigarettes or vaping products from 49 states excluding Alaska, 33 deaths in 24 states, all of which have been linked to a form of vaping Oct. 15. Out of the people that have illnesses related to vaping, 85% of victims have also admitted to using THC cartridges. Health officials are urging the public to stay away from vaping of any kind.
“If you’re not doing anything now, don’t start vaping or smoking,” Karen Derusha said, Supervising Public Health Educator at the Clinton County Department of Health.
Derusha said she didn’t have any information on any specific cases locally, but didn’t doubt that there weren’t cases across the county. Derusha also wasn’t able to speak specifically about THC cartridge related illnesses, but spoke about the misinformation that occurred during the start of the phenomenon.
“What had initially been looked at when the first cases started showing up, and how those healthcare providers were taking that information and reporting it back to their state health departments, were trying to map out what products people had used, and at that point all of them had reported vaping and had reported using either nicotine-based products and/or cannabis products, and as time went on it did seem to lean toward the THC-containing products,” Derusha said.
Derusha also said that,because recreational marijuana is not legal in many states, that might have urged the public to lie about what products they were using or not using, thus skewing the data that came out originally.