California: Analysis of Counterfeit Vape Pens Finds Vitamin E, Other Additives

Los Angeles, CA: The majority of THC vaping products seized from illicit operators in southern California contain undisclosed additives, such as vitamin E, according to an analysis of over 10,000 confiscated products. In November, the US Centers for Disease Control identified vitamin E acetate as a "very strong culprit of concern" in EVALI (e-cigarette or vaping product use-associated lung injury). To date, the CDC reports over 2,700 EVALI-related hospitalizations and 60 fatalities.

Of the confiscated products, 75 percent contained undisclosed additives. Nearly all of the products provided incorrect information on the label regarding THC content, with most containing far lower percentages of THC than advertised.

"The prevalence of dirty and dangerous vape pens at unlicensed cannabis stores demonstrate how important it is for consumers to purchase cannabis goods from licensed retailers, which are required to sell products that meet state testing and labeling standards," said Lori Ajax, who heads California’s Bureau of Cannabis Control. Ajax has previously acknowledged that no cases of EVALI have been linked to products sold by state-licensed California retailers.

The findings are similar to those from other states. A review of illegal vape cartridges in New York State identified the presence of vitamin E in 64 percent of the products sampled. Analyses of both legal and counterfeit vaping products in Massachusetts identified the presence of vitamin E oil in some illicit products, but not in regulated products. A recent review of publicly available data by reports that "cannabis prohibition states had ten times the number of vape injuries per capita as [did] states that offered licensed, tested, and legal cannabis vape products. There have been zero confirmed cases exclusively associated with a licensed store or product in the US."

For more information, see the new California NORML white paper, "Health Benefits and Risks of Cannabis Vaporizers and Vape Pens."