CDC tightens vape warnings after multiple deaths

The US government says serious lung illnesses linked to e-cigarettes have clinical similarities that point to chemical exposure.

Five deaths have been linked to e-cigarettes or vapes, according to the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which said on Friday that at least 450 people have developed severe respiratory symptoms after using the products.

Last month, former FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb suggested the most likely culprit was likely to be illicit and counterfeit vape products, including those used to deliver the psychoactive cannabis compound THC or tetrahydrocannabidiol.

CDC notes that many of the patients afflicted with the illness, but not all, reported recent use of THC-containing products. Some reported using both THC- and nicotine-containing products, while a smaller group reported using nicotine products only.

It is too early to pinpoint a single product or substance common to all cases, according to the agency, but while investigations are ongoing it is advising people to be wary of using vapes, particularly those bought on the black market.

Current FDA Commissioner Ned Sharpless said: “We are leaving no stone unturned in following any potential leads and we’re committed to taking appropriate actions as the facts emerge.”

“Our laboratory is working closely with our federal and state partners to identify the products or substances that may be causing the illnesses and have received more than 120 samples from the states so far,” he added.

Earlier reports pointed the finger at vitamin E acetate, an oil-like substance which has been found in THC-containing vape products.

The New York State Department of Health said in a report last week that vitamin E acetate is “a commonly available nutritional supplement that is not known to cause harm when ingested as a vitamin supplement or applied to the skin.” However, its effects when inhaled are unknown.

The state is testing a number of samples to try to identify the culprit, and says many of them are “suspected to be counterfeits of recreational cannabis-containing vape products available in other states.”

Cannabis-containing products are not legally available in New York State for recreational use.

“We are committed to finding out what is making people sick,” said Robert Redfield, CDC director.

“All available information is being carefully analysed, and these initial findings are helping us narrow the focus of our investigation and get us closer to the answers needed to save lives.”

Image courtesy of sarahjohnson1 via Pixabay

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