Accounting for thousands of hospitalisations, as well as sadly claiming 37 lives - illicit THC vape cartridges recently found in the US have shocked the global vaping community to its core. Leaving many vapers wondering whether it’s still safe to vape, let's take a look at some of the facts that surround this tragic story, as well as how you can vape safely and free from the dangers that illicit THC e-cigarette cartridges present.
What’s been happening in the US?
Since mid-September, a mysterious and sinister lung disease linked to vaping has been making its way across the US. As 49 of the 50 states report cases, the common theme that links the cases to one another is vaping. As we know, the range of flavoured e-liquids is almost endless, so finding commonality among the cases has been a tricky task to complete.
Leaving many vapers and legislators perplexed at how to move forward and how to limit the number of casualties that the new lung disease threatens to endanger, the immediate action has been to impose limitations on the sale of e-cigarette products.
With sweet e liquid flavours such as bubblegum and cotton candy originally thought to be playing a pivotal role in the spate of illnesses, the immediate response from the US government has been to draft legislation limiting the sale of e-liquid flavours. As the legislation awaits the green light, individual states have begun taking the matter into their own hands with bans and sale limitations already imposed in several states across the country.
As the story developed, it appears that the cause of the severe lung disease may be linked to the use of illicit THC e liquid cartridges obtained both from the black market and licensed cannabis dispensaries. The Food and Drug Agency (FDA) has since launched a criminal investigation, and the Centre for Disease Control (CDC) has been tasked with trying to identify a definitive cause.
With no conclusive evidence yet to be found, the FDA has warned the public against using any THC-containing vape cartridges entirely. But is it that simple and is THC the main culprit?
Lung Disease linked to Fake THC E Liquid Cartridges
While all the cases have been linked to vaping, the main similarity in the cases is that patients vaped e liquid containing the psychoactive cannabinoid THC which is known for creating the ‘high’ synonymous with using cannabis. The investigation has narrowed its attention to the ingredients that THC is being mixed with to create the harmful vape cartridges. In an independent study of 12 illicit cartridges, 9 contained dangerously high levels of Vitamin E acetate, which is used as a thickening agent to make e liquids appear thicker and richer. Worryingly all 12 vape cartridges contained pesticides such as myclobutanil, which can break down into hydrogen cyanide when inhaled. Needless to say, neither are ingredients that should be included in your everyday e liquid.
How to Spot a Fake Vape Cartridge
The main advice is to not buy vape cartridges if you are uncertain of their origin. Spotting a fake vape cartridge is easier than you think - you just need to know what to look out for. Similarly to the majority of consumable items, be it toothpaste, soap or cigarettes, counterfeit products have the potential to ruin your experience and leave you feeling disappointed with your purchase, not to mention the negative impact consuming such items may have on your health.
Packaging can be a strong indicator as to whether what you've purchased is a legitimate product or not. Double and triple check the branding of the product; is the font correct, is the name misspelt, do the brand colours differ to what you may be used to? Packaging should also contain a license number, batch number and potentially an ingredients list. In the instance that you can't find an ingredients list, simply get in touch with the manufacturer and request one. Should, said company appear reluctant to impart such information or refuse your request, then alarm bells should start ringing and you should avoid vaping the e liquid until you have a definitive answer.
Is it Still Safe to Vape?
For vapers across the UK and EU, the good news is that vaping is still as safe as it ever was, and remains a considerable less-harmful alternative to smoking tobacco cigarettes. Firstly, THC is illegal in the UK, which means that unless you’ve been sourcing your e-liquid from the street corner, e liquids bought from a reputable brand such as VSAVI will mean that vaping will remain a far safer alternative to smoking.
Secondly, we should probably be thankful that here in the UK and in the EU our vaping products are regulated by the TPD (Tobacco Product Directive). While rules can sometimes feel like a bit of a buzzkill, the legislation outlined by the TPD means that harmful additives like vitamin E acetate and Diacetyl can not be included in e liquid ingredients.
In 2015, Public Health England published evidence that identified e-cigarettes to be up to a staggering 95% less harmful than smoking cigarettes. Furthermore, recent research conducted by Queen Mary University London found vaping to be up to twice as effective as nicotine patches and gums in assisting a smoker to become smoke-free.
With the cannabis extract THC providing the focal point for investigating the vaping related lung disease and deaths, an immediate concern of yours may be whether vaping your favourite CBD Oil may present any dangers. While CBD may contain a small percentage of THC (legal limit is 0.2%), the CBD products sold by VSAVI are subject to testing, which then yields a certificate of analysis. Because ingredients such as Vitamin E acetate are banned by the TPD, vaping CBD oil made by VSAVI means that you’ll only be vaping the best and very safest ingredients.
Does the US Cannabis Industry Need Regulating?
Cannabis has been consumed for millennia with several historical references identifying the regular consumption of the plant by antiquated civilisations. Alas, a key piece of information often bought to the fore by pro-cannabis campaigners, is the distinct lack of fatalities linked to using the plant. Yet, since the widespread legalization of cannabis across states in America, the Wild West of Weed has now encountered thousands of hospital admissions and is now associated with several deaths. As states get to grip with how to progress the green economy safely, the reality is that governance is far from consistent across the country.
Where the use of cannabis has traditionally been limited to a handful of ways to consume the plant (smoking, eating), the legalization of the previously prohibited plant, has led companies to create a multitude of unconventional alternatives to the way the public can consume it. As companies try to attract a customer base that extends beyond that of the traditional ‘stoner’, products such as THC vape cartridges aim to appeal to the estimated 9 million vapers that the US have among its population.
As the number of cases relating the mysterious lung illness begins to plateau, the next question that lies in wait, will be whether the cannabis industry and vaping industry can manage to find some resolution through safe and effective regulation?