Vaping Products Linked with Rising Number of Hospitalizations

Thursday, 05 September 2019

Washington, DC: The US Centers for Disease Control has now identified over 200 cases of respiratory distress that may be associated with the use of disposable vapor cartridges used to consume certain e-liquids.

While the initial cases were associated with the use of unregulated vapor cartridges, the CDC states: "The investigation has not identified any specific substance or e-cigarette product that is linked to all cases. Many patients report using e-cigarette products with liquids that contain cannabinoid products, such as tetrahydrocannabinol." That said, the agency adds, "If you do use e-cigarette products, you should not buy these products off the street."

Two fatalities have been linked to the phenomenon – one in Illinois and one in Oregon. While the Oregon fatality occurred in July, the death is just being publicly reported now. Oregon officials say that the individual had recently purchased a vaping product from an area dispensary, but they acknowledge that still "don't know yet the exact cause of these illnesses — whether they're caused by contaminants, ingredients in the liquid or something else, such as the device itself."

An ongoing investigation by Leafly.com identifies some unregulated products that may be linked to the illnesses, and also suggests that specific additives and "cutting agents" may be implicated in the phenomenon. Former FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb similarly speculated, "It's probably something new that has been introduced into the market by an illegal manufacturer, either a new flavor or a new way to emulsify THC that is causing these injuries."

NORML's Deputy Director Paul Armentano said: "These unfortunate incidents reinforce the need for greater regulation, standardization, and oversight of the cannabis market — principles which NORML has consistently called for in the cannabis space. Consumers must also be aware that not all products are created equal; quality control testing is critical and only exists in the legally regulated marketplace."

Clinical studies assessing the safety of vaporizing cannabis plant material using technology that heats marijuana to a point where cannabinoid vapors form, but below the point of combustion, have determined the process to be "an effective and apparently safe vehicle for THC delivery." By contrast, there exists a paucity of clinical study on the health effects of heating liquid cannabinoid formulations, particularly at excessive temperatures.

For more information, see updates from the CDC, and updates from Leafly.com.