Monday, October 07, 2019

Utah Department of Health Concludes that THC Vape Cartridges are Causing Respiratory Disease Outbreak; Issues Specific Warning against Use of THC Oils

Unlike most other state health departments, which are conflating the respiratory disease outbreak associated with black market (and a few legal dispensary-sold) THC vaping products and the general problem of youth e-cigarette use, the Utah Department of Health has issued a report which unequivocally concludes that vaping marijuana is causing severe respiratory illness, which has now affected 71 residents in the state.

Unlike the CDC and many state health departments, which are doing everything they can to undermine the observed connection between outbreak cases and marijuana vaping, the Utah Department of Health concluded that: "Given the evidence outlined below, vaping THC cartridges or “carts” is likely the driver of this outbreak of severe lung injury. The UDOH recommends people do not vape THC cartridges until we learn more."

The evidence presented in the report is overwhelming:

  • Of 36 cases who reported on product usage, 34 (94%) admitted to vaping THC cartridges.  
  • Of 19 THC cartridges tested, 17 (89%) contained vitamin E acetate oil.
  • No contaminants or abnormalities were detected in any of the 20 nicotine cartridges tested.
  • Most of the THC cartridges were purchased illegally on the black market.
  • At least one of four black market THC vape cart "brands" were mentioned by all 34 of the cases who reported using THC: Dank Vapes, Rove, Golden Gorilla, and Smart Cart.
  • These brands are consistent with those reported by case patients in other states and with those confiscated in drug busts of large, illegal THC vape cart production operations. 
The Rest of the Story

In contrast, take a look at the health advisory issued by the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services. Its recommendation to the public is: "Individuals should consider refraining from vaping until the specific cause of the vaping-related lung injuries has been identified."

This is completely irresponsible in three respects:
  1. It makes absolutely no mention of avoiding THC vape carts.
  2. It is unnecessarily vague and invokes legally sold nicotine e-cigarettes that are being purchased from retail stores, none of which have been implicated in the outbreak.
  3. Given the severity of this disease, how can the Department merely urge people to "consider" refraining from vaping. That's hardly a warning at all. In fact, it absolutely minimizes the severity of the disease and undermines the seriousness of the entire warning. 
Even worse, the Department apparently changed this advisory, which previously did specifically mention THC vape carts. In other words, they made a conscious decision to remove the mention of THC entirely from the warning.

This is completely irresponsible and inexcusable. It puts Michigan youth and the entire public at risk by hiding from them the fact that most of the observed cases have been specifically associated with the use of black market THC vape carts.

In my view, the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services should be held responsible for future cases of respiratory disease or death among state residents who were not adequately and properly warned against the specific dangers of vaping THC oils.

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