Yesterday, the governor of yet another state - Rhode Island - announced that he would be directing the Department of Health to ban the sale of all flavored e-liquids. This now makes four states which either have banned or will imminently ban the sale of either all nicotine-containing e-cigarettes or all flavored, nicotine-containing e-cigarettes. This, along with the resignation of the CEO of JUUL, gained widespread media attention yesterday, dominated on the air waves only by a presidential impeachment inquiry.
What flew off the radar screen and is being completely ignored by those very same politicians who are banning nicotine-containing e-cigarettes is that yesterday, authorities in both Virginia and Minnesota conducted raids on makeshift residential marijuana vaping product manufacturing facilities and seized more than 76,000 illegal THC vape carts - the products that are almost certainly responsible for most of the hundreds of cases of severe, acute respiratory disease that are occurring across the nation.
In Virginia, officials seized more than 1,000 "Dank" vape cartridges which have been linked to at least some cases of the respiratory illness. Since these cartridges typically sell for about $35, the estimated street value of the seized products is more than $35,000.
In Minnesota, officials seized more than 75,000 illicit THC vape carts, "in flavors like Fruity Pebbles, Cherry Kush and Candy Land."
The Rest of the Story
It is telling that while drug enforcement authorities are actually starting to get to the root of the problem by interfering with distribution channels of the illicit THC vape carts and counterfeit or bootleg "nicotine" vaping cartridges that appear to be causing the vaping-associated respiratory disease outbreak, politicians are instead trying to win political points by putting hundreds of small businesses - vape shops which are essentially smoking cessation clinics - out of business.
As I have emphasized, this is not going to curtail the outbreak. It is going to make it worse. My opinion echoes that of former FDA commissioner Dr. Scott Gottlieb, who in recent days has been outspoken in pointing out the folly of the CDC's communications as well as policy makers' responses to the outbreak.
As Dr. Gottlieb wrote yesterday: "Reading transcripts, it seems there’s too much conflating these tragic lung injuries with store bought brands of regulated, legal e-cigs like Juul and NJOY; and far too little blaming THC, CBD, and bootleg nicotine vapes - where so far, the only available hard evidence points."
Sadly, Dr. Gottlieb appears to be the only (former) public official who knows what he is talking about because he actually knows something about the vaping industry. If he were still the commissioner, we would probably not be in the unfortunate situation we are today.
Instead of going after flavored nicotine e-liquids sold legally by retail stores, policy makers should be going after the attractive, flavored, bootleg THC vape carts - in flavors like Fruity Pebbles, Cherry Kush and Candy Land - that are being sold and distributed to our nation's youth on the black market by drug dealers.
By diverting attention away from the real problem, policy makers are actually making the problem much worse. There are going to be more severe illnesses and deaths, not fewer, because of these misguided and completely unjustified electronic cigarette bans.
If you really want to have a better understanding of the true nature of the problem, read this article by the folks at Leafly. In my opinion, they are the ones who should be conducting the outbreak investigation, not the CDC which has already completely botched the investigation and the communication of the truth to the public.