Cal NORML Health Advisory: Don’t Use Unlicensed Vape Oils

UPDATE 9/7/2019 – The California Dept. of Public Health has put up a website page about Risks of Vaping. 

UPDATE 9/6/2019 – Los Angeles county has reported the first death in California related to the use of e-cigarettes. Officials are holding a press conference this afternoon. 

The Center for Disease Control has announced there have been 450 cases of severe lung disease in the US possibly related to vape oils, including four deaths (in Illinois, Oregon, Indiana and Minnesota). 

“While this investigation is ongoing, consider not using e-cigarette products,” the CDC says. “If you do use e-cigarette products and you experience symptoms like those reported in this outbreak, seek medical care promptly. CDC and the FDA will continue to alert the public throughout this investigation.”

UPDATE 9/5/2019 – The New York State Dept. of Health has found Vitamin E acetate in the majority of samples of problem vape oils. Authorities caution not to assign culpability too quickly.

UPDATE 9/4/2019 – The Oregon Health Department has reported a death that happened in July related to a THC vape cartridge purchased at a dispensary there. 

Two related hospitalizations have been reported in Stanislaus County. 

According to Kaiser Health News, Dr. Laura Crotty Alexander, a pulmonologist and researcher with the University of California-San Diego, said she saw her first case about two years ago. A young man had been vaping for months with the same device but developed acute lung injury when he switched flavors. She strongly suspected a link, but did not report the illness anywhere. “It wasn’t that I didn’t want to report it, it’s that there’s no pathway” to do so, Alexander said….

Since at least 2013, the flavor industry has expressed concern about the use of flavoring chemicals in vaping products. The vast majority of the chemicals have been tested only by ingesting them in small quantities, as they’re encountered in foods. For most of these chemicals, there have been no tests to determine whether it is safe to inhale them. Read more. 

August 22, 2019 – An outbreak of severe lung disease has been reported among users of unlicensed cannabis vape oils.

Kings County, California first reported seven cases where people affected with Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome (ARDS) had purchased vaporizer cartridges from unlicensed “pop up” dispensaries. The Chronicle reported that there have been 21 suspected cases of severe lung illness related to vape cartridges in California since June, and a total of 153 suspected cases in 16 states.

“The first symptoms of ARDS are feeling like you can’t get enough air into your lungs, rapid breathing, a low blood oxygen level, low blood pressure, confusion, and extreme tiredness,” says a Kings County Health Department News Release. “If you are experiencing any of these symptoms seek immediate medical treatment.” It is advised to go to a hospital emergency room.

Press reports indicate that the problem comes from unknown contaminants in the oil. It’s not clear whether the contaminant is biological or chemical, or whether the product even contained genuine THC or CBD. One thing seems clear though: the vape oil at fault wasn’t legally approved in California. Licensed vape products are required to undergo rigorous safety testing before going to market here.

Cal NORML strongly advises consumers to avoid unlicensed vape products by shopping only from licensed retailers.  Any product bought from a state-licensed store or delivery service will have been tested for safety.  Unfortunately, there are a lot of bogus, unlicensed products floating around on the illegal market.  Some even come in professional packaging, which is easily obtained from online suppliers.   For example, various different illicit products are reportedly sold under the unlicensed, generic brand name “Dank Vapes”   (though it’s unclear whether they were the source of the lung disease outbreak).

Consumers should be aware that products on the underground market may come in professional-looking counterfeit packages, but no such products are sold in licensed dispensaries or delivery services.

To find licensed dispensaries or delivery services, visit Cal NORML’s cannabis resource directory or the Bureau of Cannabis Control.

Also see:

Cannabis Vaping: What’s Safe and What’s Not 

CCIA Letter to Legislature on Vape Products

Amid Vape Pen Lung Disease Deaths: What Exactly is Vitamin E Oil?

Amazon quietly pulls marijuana vape materials from site after illnesses, deaths

Citing illnesses and deaths from weed vape pens, California health officials issue warning 

Vape cart additive makers pull products as others go dark

First Vaping Death Reported in California; Among 5 Deaths and 450 Illnesses Nationwide

Vape Pen Lung Disease: Here’s What You Need to Know

Vaping Products Linked with Rising Number of Hospitalizations

Rolling Stone: How to Spot a Bootleg Cannabis Vape Cartridge publishes tips on fake vapes

Leafly: Vape Pen Lung Disease Has Insiders Eyeing Misuse of New Additives

Washington Post: As vaping-related lung illnesses spike, investigators eye contaminants

Rolling Stone: Counterfeit Weed Vape Cartridges Are Everywhere — and They’re Making People Sick

Leafly: Illicit Cannabis Vape Carts Hospitalized 7 in California, Doctors Say

Stay Informed! Join California NORML’s Email Alert List