Monday, December 02, 2019

Massachusetts State Health Department is Completely Irresponsible in Hiding the Cause of Vaping-Associated Respiratory Illness

The Department of Public Health's Silence is Putting the Lives of the State's Youth at Risk

I was startled this morning to read what the Massachusetts Department of Public Health (DPH) is currently telling the public about the vaping-associated respiratory illness outbreak that has affected more than 2,000 people and resulted in 47 deaths. This information appears on the emergency web page that the Department has created , entitled "Vaping Public Health Emergency."

There are three critical pieces of information provided regarding the outbreak. 

First, here is what DPH is currently saying about the cause of the outbreak:

"The cause of e-cigarette or vaping product use associated lung injury (EVALI) remains unknown and under investigation at both the state and federal level"

Second, here is the DPH recommendation for all members of the public:
"The Department of Public Health recommends that people do not use e-cigarettes or vaping products."

Third, DPH advises readers to check back for updates:
"Please check back for updates."

The most recent information provided by the governor's office is a press release issued on November 27. In the release, the state health department reiterates its recommendation that: "people not use any e-cigarette or vaping products." 

In addition, here is what the press release tells the public about the cause of the respiratory disease outbreak:

"The cause of e-cigarette- or vaping product use-associated lung injury (EVALI) remains unknown and is under investigation at both the state and federal level."

The Rest of the Story

In the face of a severe respiratory illness outbreak that is resulting in thousands of cases of severe, life-threatening respiratory failure, many requiring mechanical ventilation, it is unconscionable that the Massachusetts Department of Public Health and the Office of the Governor are telling people that the cause of the outbreak is "unknown."

That is it!

Nothing else!

The only thing the state health department is telling people about the cause of this disease outbreak is that the cause is unknown.

This is completely irresponsible and frankly, quite shocking to me. After all, we do know the cause of the overwhelming majority of these cases. The major cause is the vaping of THC vape carts that contain vitamin E acetate oil. 

There is no controversy about this. Both the FDA and the CDC state unequivocally that THC vaping cartridges that contain vitamin E acetate oil are playing a major role in the outbreak and are linked to the overwhelming majority of the cases. The CDC has reported that of 29 patients whose lung fluids were tested, all 29 (100%) contained vitamin E acetate, demonstrating that in all of these cases, a single product explains them: THC or CBD vape carts containing this viscous oil-based thickening agent.

In light of this definitive evidence and the conclusions of both the FDA and CDC that THC vaping is the #1 cause of the outbreak, how could the Department of Public Health possibly hide this information from the public? 

Lives are at stake here. People need to know--and urgently--that if they vape black market THC oil (which is the only kind now available in Massachusetts), they are putting their lives at risk. It is critical that young people in particular be informed that the supply of THC vape carts in the state is extremely dangerous because it has been adulterated with vitamin E acetate oil, which can literally be deadly.

But the Massachusetts Department of Public Health is not telling them! 

Instead, DPH continues to put out a general warning not to vape and all of its statements focus not on the risks of THC vaping, but on the risks of electronic cigarettes.

Not only does hiding the truth from the public put young people's lives at risk, but the state's recommendation that everyone stop vaping puts at risk the health of adult e-cigarette users who are former smokers. If they follow the advice of DPH, then they may very well decide to stop vaping, which for most of them means returning to cigarette smoking. That would be the worst possible thing they could do for their health. As long as they are vaping legal e-cigarettes and not THC, they should absolutely continue to vape.

I am struggling to come up with an explanation for why the state health department in Massachusetts would want to hide the main (if not only) cause of the respiratory disease outbreak from the public. Can the Department's venomous attitude about e-cigarettes be so strong that it is choosing to put the lives of the public at risk in order to avoid letting people in on its secret: that e-cigarettes are not the driving force behind the outbreak?

The rest of the story is that this is precisely what the Department of Public Health is doing.

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