Federal officials have announced that the enforcement arm of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has been conducting a probe in collaboration with the public health investigation led by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) into the rash of lung injuries associated with vaping. At least 530 people in 38 states have fallen ill with the mysterious vaping-related illness.
All affected patients had a history of e-cigarette or vaping use. Initial data shows that most people had a history of using products containing THC. Many said they used both nicotine and THC and some reported using only nicotine products. Many people have also said they used black market THC products.
In addressing possible fears of patients who have used illicit THC-containing products and may be wary of sharing information with public health officials, the FDA is stressing the fact that it will not be pursuing any prosecutions against individuals for personal use of any controlled substances. According to Mitch Zeller, the director of the FDA's Center for Tobacco Products, "The focus is on the supply chain. We're very alarmed about products containing THC,” he said, even if THC has not been present in every case.
The vaping illness continues to be a top concern for health officials across the United States. Just yesterday, Missouri public health officials announced the eighth death related to vaping. According to reports, the victim was a man in his mid-40s who had normal lung function before he began to vape this May. He developed mild respiratory symptoms, which continued to quickly worsen. He was hospitalized on August 22 and eventually succumbed to his lung injuries.
Legislative bodies are starting to examine how vaping can be prohibited or regulated, especially when it comes to teenagers. A New Jersey school has announced that it will be installing vape detectors in bathrooms to cut down on the common practice of students vaping in restrooms. Michigan became the first state to issue a ban on flavored vapes as a response to the health crisis. Retailers will have two weeks to remove all flavored vape products from their stores under emergency rules released by the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services on Wednesday.
At the federal level, Senators Mitt Romney (R) and Jeff Merkley (D) have introduced a bill titled 'Ending New Nicotine Dependencies Act' that would ban flavored e-cigarettes, apply cigarette taxes to the devices, specify e-cigarette design standards, monitor the public health risks of using tobacco products, and direct the Department of Health and Human Services to educate the public about health implications of using e-cigarettes.