As the cases of lung disease associated with tainted vape products increases (both cannabis and tobacco vapes), there is a melancholy irony here.
Vaping technology was created to reduce the long-term hazards of smoking, most particularly cigarette smoking – which kills over 400,000 Americans per year.
In contrast, smoking cannabis (regularly) causes only minor respiratory irritation. While some of the ingredients in cannabis tar are deemed to be carcinogenic, there has never been any definitive connection established between cannabis smoking and cancer.
So vaping technology was primarily introduced to reduce the number of deaths among tobacco smokers. However, any benefit here seems to be negated by the fact that the creation of e-cigarettes has caused an increase in teenage tobacco use.
With cannabis, vaping has widely been considered a lesser-of-evils versus smoking. But this new health peril puts this conclusion into doubt.
Leafly has been providing thorough coverage of this subject. Originally, this was identified as an issue with illicit (i.e. black market) vape pens, that are neither inspected nor regulated. However, as Leafly has dug deeper in its reporting (and further data has emerged), this has now become an issue for the legal cannabis industry as well.
The problem has been a general lack of understanding (and regulation) of the chemical agents that are allowed to be used in these products, especially a vitamin-E derivative. Known as tocopheryl-acetate, suspicion is rising in among doctors and health regulators that this could be creating consumer dangers in both illegal and legal vape products.
Again, we see a negative biproduct of cannabis Prohibition. Because cannabis has not been legalized nationally in the United States – and regulated nationally – states have been forced to establish their own safety regulations and standards.
Product safety regulation and inspection has always been primarily a national responsibility for two reasons. First, the federal government has superior resources. Second, national regulation implies national safety standards, consistent from state to state.
Thanks to cannabis Prohibition, there are no national safety regulations for the U.S. industry, nor the product inspection that (at least in theory) accompanies such regulation. Each state has its own different regulations for these products.
A total of six people have now died from tainted vape products, including one consumer of a legal cannabis vape pen.
As The Seed Investor noted in a recent article, while cannabis consumption doesn’t kill people, cannabis Prohibition is killing people.
As Canada prepares to legalize vaping products in October, this is an important lesson – and warning – for the Canadian cannabis industry. Health Canada needs to review its own safety standards for vape products, to ensure a similar issue doesn’t create problems for Canada’s legal cannabis industry.
The message for cannabis consumers is caution. Leafly warns that “suspicious additives” are not yet banned in the states of Californian, Oregon, and Washington.
The message for U.S.-based cannabis companies is to very carefully review their own supply chains – and immediately weed-out inputs that may create health risks.
The message for cannabis investors is don’t overreact. Millions of Americans have been using cannabis vape pens. Only a very tiny percentage have shown symptoms of this serious respiratory illness.
As awareness (quickly) rises, cannabis investors and consumers alike should expect a quick resolution of this problem through better regulation.
This doesn’t address the dangers of using illicit vape products. It is one more reason why black market consumers may want to move to legal cannabis products – if allowed in their state.
Cannabis is safe. It is sadly ironic that technology that is supposed to make cannabis consumption “safer” is instead endangering consumers.