As of Sept. 11, six people have died as a result of lung diseases caused by vaping bringing national attention to its potential dangers.
President Donald Trump and his administration have even called for a ban on flavored e-cigarettes in hopes of preventing future deaths.
The unfortunate reality is that banning flavored e-cigarettes may not solve all the problems that are presented by vaping and fails to address much more pressing issues.
One of the main concerns with flavored e-cigarettes is their appeal to younger people and an increase in nicotine use among teenagers.
The reality is teenagers have always been doing things they are not supposed to, myself included.
I still remember the days of being 16 and sneaking out at night to smoke clove cigarettes and drink Smirnoff Ice (which let’s face it, alcohol that tastes like Sprite is very appealing to teens and no one is talking about banning that.)
Vaping products are meant for adults I know many who enjoy the fruity flavors and some are using them as an alternative to smoking or are looking to quit all together.
While the Center for Disease Control does state that at least 380 cases of illness may be linked to vaping, just a fractions of those that have been effected by cigarettes.
In fact the CDC stated that more than 480,000 die every year from smoking related illnesses such as lunch cancer and emphysema.
The CDC recommends people avoid vaping but also explains that it may be safer than smoking, advising those who use e-cigarettes to quit smoking to not return to smoking cigarettes.
Banning flavored e-cigarettes also fails to address an issues brought up by the CDC and that’s that the majority of those patients possibly affected by vaping related illnesses reported to also using THC e-cigarette products.
These THC based e-cigarette products, also known as cartridges or carts, became popular after many states loosened their marijuana laws. Carts have become popular because they are an easy, convenient and discrete way of consuming THC especially in states where marijuana is not legal.
Legitimate suppliers of these THC cartridges are forced to go through strict regulations imposed by the state such as lab testing for potency and potentially harmful impurities such as pesticides.
The issue seems to actually stem from the growing underground market for THC cartridges.
As soon as unscrupulous vendors realized they could make these products at a low cost by buying cheap additives and hardware from China, they began flooding the market.
Large operations started popping up, such as the case of Wisconsin resident Tyler Huffhines who was caught running an illegal business where his employees would fill empty cartridges with THC oil to be sold on the black market.
Some of these setups attempt to pass themselves off as legitimate companies giving themselves a brand such as Dank Vapes and Exotic Carts.
These easily concealable products are then shipped all over the country to be sold on the streets. Some fake brands have even made their way to El Paso and into the hands of some of my own friends.
Social media has made it easier than ever for dealers to push these potentially dangerous cartridges.
A quick Instagram search reveals dozens of accounts with descriptions like “worldwide shipping” or “Your satisfaction is our priority,” accompanied by pictures of hundreds of counterfeit cartridges.
The FDA believes that the possible cause of these health problems are the additives being put into THC cartridges. The FDA found that many of the cartridges they tested contained Vitamin E oil, pesticides, opioids, poisons, heavy metals or other toxins.
Many believe vitamin E oil is the main culprit because of how the oil has the potential to coat a person’s lungs causing severe health issues.
It seems to be widely believed among the marijuana industry that vaping is a good way for medical patients to medicate both THC and CBD.
CBD is the non-psychoactive component in marijuana that is used medicinally.
Brandon McCormick, a former employee of Ultra Health a New Mexico based medical marijuana dispensary explains “Activation speed is quicker with vapes than most other forms of ingestion.”
The activation speed or how long it takes for the medicine to take effect can be very important to some patients, for those that don’t want to smoke the other option would be edibles. Unfortunately edibles laced with TCH or CBD can take over an hour to take effect, which may be too late for some patients.
McCormick went onto explain that vaping is “generally cleaner than smoking,” making it a go to for patients that don’t want to smoke.
“They use very complicated science instruments, gas chromatography, high-performance liquid chromatography,” explained McCormick, “there are measures in various states of testing for heavy metals, foreign contaminants and anything that isn’t supposed to be there in the cartridges.”
I am a huge proponent of legalizing marijuana, especially for medical purposes. That is why I believe in the nationwide legalization of marijuana and products made with it.
The marijuana industry, like any other, requires proper regulation to ensure the safety of the consumer.
With proper regulation all consumers of marijuana, from cancer patients to college students could have safe access to a useful drug that causes very little harm, without fear of ingesting something that is potentially life threatening.
We have seen the effects of prohibition, in the past when people do not have a way to buy some thing they go to the black market.
As for e-cigarettes, people need to understand that almost everything you do has the potential to be dangerous. From drinking alcohol to driving a car, there are risks and it is up to the individual to decide what risks they are willing to take.
So far we don’t have enough information to conclusively say vaping is what is going on and if there are any long-term risks to vaping. For now it’s a waiting game.
While the government should definitely put in the work to make sure the vaping industry is regulated, it should be left up to the consumer if they want to take the risk.