The majority of vaping-related lung illnesses are coming from THC-containing products, the Centers for Disease Control said Friday, and the lack of regulations around e-cigarettes means that “users do not know what is in their e-cigarettes.”
The wide range of e-cigarette products, and the ease of tampering with them, has made the CDC and Food and Drug Administration’s investigation into the 805 cases of severe lung illness “complex,” Dr. Anne Schuchat, principal deputy director of the C.D.C., said in a media briefing.
“The outbreak has occurred in the context of a dynamic marketplace for e-cigarettes or vaping products,” she said. “These have a mix of ingredients, complex packaging and supply chain, and include potentially illicit substances in any given state. Users do not know what is in their e-cigarette or e-liquid solutions. However, many of the products or substances themselves can be modified by a supplier or user.”
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Of the 805 cases of severe lung illness — which includes 13 deaths — the CDC has closely analyzed 514, and found that 77 percent reported using THC-containing products, with some using both THC- and nicotine-containing products.
Of those 514 cases, 16 percent of people reported using only nicotine-containing products. Schuchat said that because of those cases, they are not narrowing their investigation to only THC products.
“The outbreak, currently, is pointing to a greater concern around THC-containing products,” she said. “However, we don’t know whether the only risky substance for lung injury is the THC-containing products, and we didn’t feel comfortable dropping the broader recommendation [to refrain from using e-cigarettes] yet.”
Schuchat also said that the CDC does “not know yet what exactly” in e-cigarettes — THC- or nicotine-based — is making people sick, such as “particular solvents or adulterants.”
Also participating in the call were health officials from Wisconsin as well as Illinois, which has one of the highest numbers of lung illness cases in the country. They found that 66 percent of the cases in their states had used Dank Vapes brand cartridges.
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Nationwide, the CDC found that the median age of patients is 23 years old, and two-thirds are male. Additionally, 54 percent of cases occurred in people under 25 years old.
Schuchat said that the CDC “recommends people refraining from use of e-cigarettes or vaping products, particularly those containing THC.”
“We don’t want to see any more vaping-related illnesses, and as such, I want to stress that we at the CDC are concerned about the occurrence of life-threatening illness in otherwise healthy young people, reported from around the country.”
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