A newly released, national public opinion survey conducted by Morning Consult reveals that twice as many U.S. adults believe that JUULs, as opposed to marijuana vape carts, are associated with the outbreak of deaths from respiratory disease. The survey also reveals that U.S. adults are no more likely to believe that marijuana vape carts are associated with the deaths as to think that marijuana vape carts are not associated with the deaths.
Specifically, 58% of the adults surveyed attribute the outbreak deaths to the use of "e-cigarettes such as JUUL," while only 34% attribute these deaths to "marijuana or THC" vaping. And an almost equal proportion of adults believe that the deaths are not associated with marijuana or THC vaping (32%) as believe that the deaths are associated with marijuana or THC vaping.
The truth is that of the five reported deaths in which the product being used has been revealed, all five (5/5, or 100%) are associated with the use of marijuana or THC vape carts while none are associated with the use of JUUL.
It isn't even plausible that these deaths could be associated with JUUL because there are millions of JUUL users who have been using the products for several years without any reported problems. Moreover, we would be seeing a lot more cases among adults if JUUL was the culprit.
In contrast, there are very strong reasons to believe that marijuana vape carts are the primary culprits. More than 80%, and probably closer to 90% of the cases involve patients who admitted to vaping THC. Of the remaining 10%, it is highly likely that many (if not all) of them are simply not reporting THC use because many youth would not want to admit to the use of illicit THC vape carts purchased off the black market from drug dealers. Furthermore, I am not aware of a single case in which a negative THC urine screen was obtained, meaning that we can't rule out the use of a THC cart in any of the cases. And finally, all five of the deaths for which products were reported involve patients who vaped cannabis.
The Rest of the Story
These results demonstrate how awful the CDC's risk communication has been around this outbreak. Despite the fact that close to 90% of the cases are associated with the use of THC oils, the public is much more likely to attribute the outbreak to the use of legally sold and rigorously lab-tested JUUL than to the use of illicit and completely untested and unregulated THC vape carts. This is truly a public health disaster!
It is a disaster because it means that the CDC has failed to properly communicate the severe risks of vaping marijuana. Instead, the CDC has successfully scared the public into thinking that e-cigarettes like JUUL could almost instantly kill you. Undoubtedly, this means that many of the continuing cases that we now observe and will observe moving forward are being caused by the failed, if not fraudulent, CDC warning.
People who otherwise might have been dissuaded from vaping marijuana if the CDC had been honest are likely continuing to do so and are at great risk of suffering respiratory failure or even death.
The rest of the story is that the CDC has not been transparent, forthcoming, or honest in its communications regarding the outbreak of vaping-associated respiratory illness. It has gone out of its way to hide the fact that most of these cases were associated with the use not of legal electronic cigarettes, but of illicit THC vape carts. And sadly, the misinformation campaign is working. The public is completely misinformed about the outbreak and is not in a position to make informed, rational decisions to take action to avoid this life-threatening disease.
In its apparent zeal to demonize electronic cigarettes, the CDC has put the lives of the public at risk.