(TMU) — U.S. President Donald Trump is planning an all-out ban on non-tobacco-flavored e-cigarettes amid the continuing nationwide outbreak of a lung illness tied to vaping that has officials demanding new controls to rein in the so-called “epidemic.”
The proposal comes as officials with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have warned users to stop using e-cigarettes altogether, regardless of whether the products are used to vape nicotine, CBD, or THC.
On Wednesday, Trump met with Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar and acting Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Commissioner Norman Sharpless to discuss the proposed ban.
Trump told reporters:
“Not only is it a problem overall, but really specifically with respect for children … We may very well have to do something very, very strong about it.”
According to a 2016 survey, there are roughly 10 million vapers in the U.S., with half of those users under the age of 35. Azar and Sharpless briefed Trump on recent data showing surging teen e-cigarette use, with many middle and high school students picking up the habit amid a lack of regulations and studies of the habit. This has prompted the FDA to label teen vaping an “epidemic.”
More information is needed about the products used, where they were obtained & what substances they contain. We urge consumers to avoid buying vaping products from the street, and to refrain from using THC oil or modifying/adding any substances to products purchased in stores.
— Dr. Ned Sharpless (@FDACommissioner) September 6, 2019
Stating newer statistics showing that five million children are using e-cigarettes, Secretary Azar called the latest data “alarming” and noted that the FDA is finalizing its guidance to ban non-tobacco flavored e-cigarettes due to children’s attraction to the flavors. The administration plans to take strong action if e-cigarette makers are found to be intentionally targeting children.
As of last week, over 450 people have grown sick with a mysterious lung disease linked to vaping, with the age of those affected averaging to 19. Six people have died from the lung ailment.
Symptoms that people have been reporting resemble severe pneumonia, shortness of breath, fatigue, coughing, and respiratory failure that prevents the body from breaking down oxygen, producing carbon dioxide, or both. Some patients have required mechanical ventilation, steroids, and several weeks of hospital care to recover, while some have suffered permanent lung damage.
Those affected used a number of different types of devices ranging from pens to smaller e-cigarettes and a variety of different brands of liquids and cartridges, including unregulated black market THC cartridges.
Illicit vaping fluids often contain “thickening agents” meant to dilute or cut the potency, increasing the profits of street dealers while contaminating cartridges with adulterants such as heavy metals, dangerous fungicides, and other ingredients. The thickeners were marketed on the internet as cheap, safe additives that boost dealer profits while not negatively impacting the flavor or odor of THC products.
Some officials have zeroed in on vitamin E acetate—an oil derived from vitamin E and a common additive in skin creams and lotions—as a potential culprit in the mysterious waves of lung disease.
However, CDC Deputy Director Dr. Brian King said:
“The bottom line is there’s a variety of things in e-cigarette aerosol that could have implications for lung health.”
On Monday, New York state officials announced that it would take “aggressive action” against the companies marketing and selling thickening agents. Governor Andrew Cuomo ordered the Department of Health to issue subpoenas to three companies identified as marketing the diluents.
The three companies subpoenaed were Honey Cut Labs of California, Floraplex of Michigan and Massachusetts-based Mass Terpenes. Many of these companies have pulled their products or entire websites offline, according to Leafly.
Health secretary Azar remarked Wednesday that it could take several weeks for the FDA to develop the new guidelines restricting e-cigarette use.
A Wisconsin man is accused of running a 10-man operation that manufactured thousands of counterfeit vaping cartridges loaded with THC oil every day for almost two years, authorities said. https://t.co/YsfbNViBYC
— PBS NewsHour (@NewsHour) September 11, 2019