Last year, several cases of “vape-related illnesses” began popping up in the United States. However, while the story itself has died down, much of the misinformation from that time is still around. This has unfortunately created a lot of misconceptions about vaping, which is why we want to make sure people are aware of what the truth really is.
What Was Stated
The first cases of vaping-related illnesses were reported back in April 2019 and remained rather steady before drastically spiking in September and then dropping off. Many of those who were reported as getting sick tended to be teens and young adults.
Both news outlets and health officials alike placed the blame for these illnesses on vaping products in general. Anti-Vape groups took advantage of the situation and led consumers to believe that ANY vaping product or e-cigarette could result in lung injuries and illnesses forming. This caused many cities, states and health groups to sound the alarm to ban all products with little to no information as to what the cause was.
Combined with anti-vaping parent groups, local and state governments overreacted and started banning nicotine vapes while largely leaving THC and CBD vapes alone. Eventually, this culminated in the federal ban on some cartridge-based e-cigarettes flavors, along with the raising of the legal age to purchase tobacco products from 18 to 21.
What’s Really the Case
Very early on, it became apparent that it actually wasn’t nicotine vaping products which were causing these illnesses. In fact, data from as early as October 2019 shows that most of the people who reported getting sick were primarily using illicit, pre-filled THC carts, especially those from the Dank Vapes brand.
What was found was that these illicit carts tended to have very high levels of vitamin E acetate. These carts had been using vitamin E acetate as a cutting agent. While not harmful for ingestion, when it’s inhaled, it can be quite dangerous and may result in damage to a person’s lungs, which is precisely why it is not used in any nicotine e-Liquids. It’s no surprise, then, that the three main reasons listed by the CDC as to why EVALI (e-cigarette or vaping product use-associated lung injury) cases have dropped off just as quickly as they spiked are better awareness of vitamin E acetate risks, the removal of it from products, and a crackdown on these illicit carts.
In January, the CDC confirmed these findings further and stated that EVALI cases were caused by Illicit THC cartridges, not nicotine based vapes.
Why Use a Cutting Agent at All?
While THC, CBD, and nicotine e-liquids are widely available, THC based ‘oils’ are quite expensive, and the taxes imposed by government agencies on them even in states where they’re legal meant that it was easier and cheaper for adults and underaged users to buy these products from street dealers and friends instead. Cutting the product with something like vitamin E acetate meant more profit for the dealers.
This of course left a lot of sellers of THC oils looking for a way to meet the growing demand, while also keeping their costs low. Many places were seeing customers turn away from them and instead opt to choose the products from street dealers and friends. In turn, they too would look into possible cutting agents. A lot of companies in particular started to use a cutting agent called Honey Cut.
However, Leafly, a Cannabis related organization, warned people about Honey Cut all the way back in October of 2018. The product, which was just vitamin E acetate, offered manufacturers the ability to cut THC oil concentrations by up to 70%, maximizing their profits. Soon after, several Honey Cut copycats tried to do the same, many of them either not aware of the risks or simply not caring about the danger they posed. Honey Cut and similar cutting agents have never been used in nicotine vape products.
As a result of these findings, the CDC has stated a warning about THC cartridges bought from informal sources which have been linked to the majority of EVALI cases. The World Health Organization also stated in their own brief that there was no connection between these EVALI cases in the U.S. and nicotine vaping, but rather the vitamin E acetate in those illicit carts appeared to be the main culprit.
In recent times, the ongoing COVID pandemic has caused a new bout of vaping misinformation to arise, which we have also tried to clarify here. Still, the large amount of unreliable information which is still out there regarding these past illnesses has unfortunately caused many people to develop a negative opinion about nicotine vaping. That’s why we want to make it clear here that nicotine vaping does not contain vitamin E acetate and has not been shown to lead to any of the lung-related injuries associated with vaping. Hopefully, we were able to set the record straight as to where the real risks lie.