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DISCUSSION: What's behind vaping illness?

The Trump administration this week announced plans to remove flavored e-cigarettes from the marketplace. The move comes as hundreds nationwide have been sickened with a lung illness that health officials have linked to vaping.

Investigators remain unsure of what is behind the mysterious illness.

  • Watch the Friday morning discussion above.

Here are the key points:

Flavored e-cig ban to go national

  • The Trump administration announced Wednesday that it plans to ban the sale of flavored e-cigarettes, citing an “epidemic of youth e-cigarette use.”
    • The move comes after Gov. Gretchen Whitmer announced last week that Michigan would become the first state in the U.S. to ban the sale of flavored e-cigarettes.
  • Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar : “We will not stand idly by as these products become an on-ramp to combustible cigarettes or nicotine addiction for a generation of youth.”
  • The American Vaping Association expressed disappointment in the decision.
    • " A ban will remove life-changing options from the market that have been used by several million American adults to quit smoking, " the association said.
  • The announcement comes as federal health authorities investigate an outbreak of a mysterious lung illness linked to vaping devices.

A guide to e-cigarettes

  • E-cigarettes are devices used to inhale an aerosol that typically contains nicotine, flavorings and other chemicals.
  • The devices can resemble traditional cigarettes, pens, USB sticks, or pipes. Other devices have fillable tanks attached.
  • Most e-cigarettes are made up of four components:
    • A cartridge or reservoir that holds a liquid solution
    • A heating element
    • A power source
    • A mouthpiece used to inhale
  • Puffing on the mouthpiece activates the battery-powered heating device, which vaporizes the liquid solution. The resulting aerosol is then inhaled.
  • The liquid (referred to as e-juice, e-liquid or vape juice) typically contains nicotine and is available in a wide variety of flavors.
    • Flavored e-juice uses the same type of flavoring used in food.
  • E-juice can also be made to contain CBD or THC (extracted from cannabis).

Lung illness linked to vaping

  • State health departments on Tuesday reported more than 480 cases of a severe respiratory illness that has been linked to vaping (this is a significant jump from 215 cases reported as of August 27).
    • Six people have died from the illness.
    • Patients report respiratory issues with some being put on oxygen support, as well as nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, fatigue and weight loss.
    • Most of the patients are in their late teens and 20s with no underlying health issues. The only thing patients have in common is vaping.
  • There appears to be a particular danger for people who vape THC, according to the FDA . A significant number of vape juice samples used by patients contained THC along with the chemical vitamin E acetate.
    • 17% of patients in Wisconsin and Illinois reported only using nicotine products.
    • Due to the illegality of marijuana in most of the US, patients may be hesitant to report using THC-containing products.
  • Health officials are urging people to avoid buying vaping products on the street, and avoid products containing THC.

Wisconsin man ran a drug ring that filled up to 5,000 bootleg vaping cartridges per day, police say [article]

  • Authorities in Wisconsin this week busted a large-scale operation making tens of thousands of bootleg THC-containing vape products.
  • Tyler Huffhines , 20, allegedly ran the operation filling empty vape cartridges with THC oil. According to investigators:
    • Ten people working for Huffhines were paid 30 cents per cartridge filled
    • Employees filled about 3,000 to 5,000 cartridges a day
    • The products were sold for $22 each
  • Officials are currently testing the THC oil used in Huffhines’s operation.

Cannabis industry calls for legalization and regulation to snuff out underground vapes [article]

  • The National Cannabis Industry Association ( NCIA ) on Wednesday put out a call for legalizing and regulating cannabis to deal with vaping illness.
    • "These unfortunate illnesses and deaths are yet another terrible, and largely avoidable, consequence of failed prohibition policies," said NCIA Executive Director Aaron Smith.
  • Vape products account for approximately 25% of licensed cannabis sales.

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