Nicotine vaping and e-cigarettes have yet to be identified as a source in any case to date

In the United States, there has been hysteria in the media and with regulatory backlash following a wave of outbreaks misattributed to nicotine vapor products such as e-cigarettes. Despite repeated attempts by public health experts to clarify that illicitly produced marijuana oil cartridges had been the only identified source for most outbreaks, the country’s largest public health agencies and media continued to blame “vaping” in general.

The FDA and CDC have finally adjusted their position, stating that black market THC-containing vaping products are responsible for these outbreaks and have begun shifting their messaging away from blaming e-cigarettes and vaping as a whole. Both agencies advise against the use of THC vaping products, while investigations are ongoing.

Regional public health experts and officials dealing with these illnesses directly have been publicly stating for weeks that illegal cannabis cartridges either contaminated with pesticides and mold or spiked with additives such as vitamin E acetate have caused these injuries. Members of the vaping community are happy to see the agencies finally adjust their messaging, although some note that targeting e-cigarettes with no mention of THC cartridges in initial statements may have actually exacerbated these outbreaks as those most vulnerable may not have known they were at risk.

This was further worsened by news outlets drumming up fears of vaping killing people as filler content during slow news cycles. While some may contend this move was too little too late by the largest public health agencies in the United States, this new stance may help to reshift public perception about vaping caused by that lack of clarification.

Correcting The Record

After months of messaging warning against vaping and e-cigarettes following multiple instances of various outbreaks of lung illnesses across the United States, both the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Centers for Disease Prevention and Control (CDC) have revised their position and now specifically mention THC-vaping as the source to be avoided in these outbreaks. This follows repeated attempts by various regional public health officials to get the agency to clarify its messaging, as by targeting e-cigarettes and not cannabis cartridges, users of these products may not believe they’re at any risk.

Data released by the CDC finds that people who died of “vaping-related lung injury” exclusively used illegally produced products containing THC. Traditional nicotine vapor products such as e-cigarettes and vape juice do not contain THC and are produced under strict industry and regulatory standards.

This falls in line with previous reports linking black market marijuana cartridges to multiple instances of these outbreaks. “The data does continue to point towards THC-containing products,” Dr. Anne Schuchat, Principal Deputy Director of the CDC.

Cannabis oil cartridges are easy to produce on the black market, as packaging is cheap and readily available, and people fill these cartridges with all kinds of various oils and substances. At best, these cartridges are often filled with oil deemed unfit for sale on the licensed market, usually because of mold or excessive pesticides, and at worst these cartridges are nothing more than PEG400 mixed with synthetic cannabinoids and thinning agents.

Truth About Vaping

Despite the hysteria surrounding a so-called vaping “epidemic,” we face the height of a global smoking epidemic responsible for killing hundreds of thousands a year and impacting over a billion people globally. The CDC estimates that there are 38 million smokers in the United States alone, with 16 million currently living with some kind of smoking-related condition.

Vaping has been proven time and time again as a remarkably effective smoking cessation device. Research from University College London found that vaping helps 50,000 to 70,000 people quit smoking in Britain alone.

In fact, vaping may be the best smoking cessation tool we currently have at our disposal. Research by the University of Louisville found vaping to be the single most effective smoking cessation option available, even more than going cold turkey or prescription options.

In addition, vaping has been repeatedly proven to be a reduced-harm alternative to smoking. Research published in the Journal of Aerosol Sciences found that vapers face a remarkable 57,000 times lower risk of developing cancers in their lives compared to smokers.


The two largest public health agencies in the United States have finally clarified their messaging to target products responsible for these outbreaks. Many would argue that this delay in clarification may have exacerbated the entire crisis and is responsible for several additional illnesses and deaths.

A key point to reiterate is that nicotine vapor products such as e-cigarettes and vape juice have not been found to be responsible for any of the outbreaks. In addition, this issue appears to be wholly isolated to the United States as there have been no reports of similar illnesses or outbreaks in the rest of the world.

While some criticize this shift in stance as too little too late, it is important to acknowledge that people finally are getting proper information about what is responsible for these illnesses. This shift in stance may also help to shift some of the negative public perceptions about vaping created by the initial misinformation.

Have you or someone you know used an illegal cannabis cartridge? How do you feel about the FDA and CDC clarifying their messaging? We’d love to hear from you in the comments below, be sure to like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter to receive all the latest vaping news!

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