Sunday, January 26, 2020

CDC is Concealing and Suppressing Information on Youth Marijuana Vaping to Over-hype Harms of E-Cigarettes

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is concealing and suppressing information on the number one cause of severe, vaping-related health harm to youths in order to deceive the public into thinking that e-cigarettes are at the top of the list.

In fact, the number one cause of severe, vaping-related health damage to youths is not electronic cigarettes, although you would not know that from reading the CDC's literature on youth vaping.

The Rest of the Story

The chief cause of substantial health harms to youth from vaping is actually not e-cigarettes. It is marijuana or THC vaping.

The hundreds of youth who have become severely ill with respiratory failure from the EVALI outbreak have been harmed not by e-cigarettes, but by vaping marijuana carts.

The deaths that have occurred among youths from the EVALI outbreak were caused not by e-cigarettes, but by vaping THC.

Substantial numbers of youths have been affected by psychosis due to vaping THC and in some cases, groups of youths have actually had to be taken to emergency rooms because of the vaping of THC products that may have been contaminated with synthetic marijuana or other drugs.

This is by no means to minimize the harm being caused by addiction to devices such as JUUL which deliver high concentrations of nicotine salts. However, it is to point out that what is actually causing serious acute health harm to adolescents is THC vaping, not the use of e-cigarettes.

For some reason, the CDC has been concealing this critical information from the public. For three years in a row (2016-2018), the CDC's National Youth Tobacco Survey (NTYS) showed that the overwhelming majority of youths who were heavy e-cigarette vapers (use on 20 or more days per month) were also vaping marijuana. However, in all three years, the CDC failed to report these data.

In fact, had the CDC reported these data in 2016, it is possible that steps could have been taken that would have averted much of the disease and death caused by EVALI in 2019 because the problem of youth marijuana vaping would not have fallen off the radar screen.

Even if you look at all youth vapers (anyone who has used an e-cigarette in the past 30 days), more than half of these youth are vaping marijuana, not just nicotine-containing e-cigarettes.

Here are the data which the CDC has concealed:

Percentage of CURRENT youth e-cigarette users reporting ever use of THC vapes:
2016: 39%
2017: 52%
2018: 54%

Percentage of HEAVY youth e-cigarette users reporting ever use of THC vapes:
2016: 62%
2017: 73%
2018: 71%

What percentage of youth e-cigarette users reported having also vaped THC in 2019?

The answer is ...

... we have no idea.

Why? Because the CDC did not even ask the question about marijuana/THC vaping in the 2019 National Youth Tobacco Survey!

Why would the CDC intentionally take this question off the survey, when it had included the question in the 2016, 2017, and 2018 surveys?

If you put everything together:
  • the fact that the CDC concealed the information on youth THC vaping for three straight years;
  • the fact that the CDC blamed the EVALI outbreak on e-cigarettes rather than on THC vaping for months before finally having to admit that e-cigarettes were not to blame; and
  • the fact that the CDC intentionally removed the THC vaping question from the 2019 NYTS,

one can only get the impression that the CDC is intentionally hiding from the public the extent of the youth marijuana vaping problem because it wants the public to incorrectly believe that e-cigarettes--not THC vapes--are the greatest and most serious vaping-related health risk faced by our nation's youth.

The CDC cover-up of the role being played by THC vaping in the youth vaping epidemic has had serious consequences. Arguably, it contributed to the sudden and unexpected outbreak of respiratory disease that took the public health world by storm last year, something that could potentially have been avoided or reduced had health practitioners and agencies throughout the country been aware of the severe health risks being posed by youth THC vaping.

It could also have helped avoid misguided policies - such as the e-cigarette flavor bans that are sweeping the nation - which are going to push youth towards more THC vaping as flavored e-liquids become less available.

The CDC had better add the THC vaping question back into the 2020 survey because I am predicting that the proportion of youth vapers who report the use of marijuana/THC vapes is going to rise significantly in 2020 and beyond because of the widespread bans on flavored e-liquids.

The rest of the story is that the CDC is concealing and suppressing critical health data on youth marijuana use, apparently in an attempt to over-hype the harms of e-cigarettes. This is causing significant adverse public health consequences. Unless heath practitioners and agencies understand that the problem of youth vaping is not solely a problem of youth e-cigarette use, they will be unable to craft an effective policy to protect the health of our nation's youth.

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