One of the bizarre parts about the recent string of vaping related illnesses and deaths is that it has been restricted to the United States. So far there have been 380 likely cases of vaping-correlated lung disease in 36 states and one US territory, but not a peep from the rest of the world.
That changed this week, when officials in Ontario, Canada told the public that they were investigating the severe respiratory problems that had been experienced by a high school student after vaping. They would not release many details about the case, however—we’re still in the dark even as to whether the young person was using cannabis and/or tobacco products.
The reason, the county health department’s medical officer stated, was that authorities did not want to exculpate vaping itself in the situation.
“In order to clarify the health messaging, we’re not going to be releasing the brand related information. Because that would imply that this is something coming from one brand when clearly looking at the international evidence that’s not the case,” said chief medical officer Dr. Christopher Mackie.
He did share that the youth had no other health condition, was showing symptoms that constituted a severe illness, and had been given treatment in an intensive care unit. The case had been reported to Canada’s Consumer Product Safety Act reporting system early this summer by a medical resident who surmised that the youth’s illness may have been due to his use of vaping products. The ministry of health, apparently, only heard about the case last week.
“This information, not previously available to the ministry of health, will be critical as we continue to engage with leading experts to identify evidence-based solutions that protect our youth from the potential dangers of vaping,” said Ontario health minister Christine Elliott in a statement.
In the absence of sureties on the matter, policymakers have been left rather rudderless when it comes to how to protect vapers. New York Governor Andrew Cuomo announced at the beginning of the week that he was recommending an emergency ban on flavored e-cigarettes. That’s an echo of the words of President Donald Trump, who announced last week that the feds would be drastically tightening up when it came to restrictions on the flavored tobacco vaping products last week. All this, despite the fact that the vaping crisis has not been centered among users of flavored tobacco products—even though teen use of vapes is a whole other, troublesome issue.
In the US, practical response to the string of illness has taken on a variety of forms. Some officials have pointed to vitamin E acetate used as a thickening agent in cannabis cartridges as a source of the problem. In Oregon, Portland’s Pixis Labs has offered free testing services so that people can tell whether their vape cart has vitamin E in it.
In Massachusetts, the state’s Cannabis Control Commission voted on September 12 to require cannabis product manufacturers to list all ingredients in their vaping cartridges. New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy has convened a task force to broadly oversee any policy changes that need to be made regarding the vaping industry.