Vaping is in the news and for all of the wrong reasons. What at first seemed to be a handful of isolated cases has turned into a legitimate outbreak. Vaping appears to be the common denominator when it comes to an outbreak of serious lung-related illnesses. But beyond that, things get murky. Here is what you need to know:
Over 2,200 cases reported: As of November 20, 2019, the CDC said 2,290 cases of vape-related lung injuries have been reported, with 47 confirmed deaths. While the numbers may still be small compared to the number of people who vape, this appears to be a legitimate health issue.
What are the symptoms? Reported symptoms include: shortness of breath, chest pain, nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. The symptoms can be associated with other conditions, which is why some people ended up not seeking medical care until their cases became severe at which point they required hospitalization. If you vape and are experiencing these symptoms, please seek prompt medical attention.
What caused the crisis: The CDC has identified vape liquids containing Vitamin E acetate are a chemical of concern. In a November 19, 2019 news release, the CDC recommended that "people should not use THC-containing e-cigarette, or vaping, products, particularly from informal sources like friends, or family, or in-person or online dealers. While this investigation is ongoing, vitamin E acetate should not be added to e-cigarette, or vaping, products."
What about vaping CBD? While CBD products haven't been directly linked to the lung injury outbreak, they haven't been cleared either. Health authorities are focused on the components in vape oil which could be triggering the lung injuries. Those ingredients could appear in vape oil with THC, CBD or nicotine.
Should consumers stop vaping? I'm not a health expert and do not make medical claims or recommendations. Whether you continue to vape is a personal decision. Even though I have confidence that the product I've been vaping in recent months is of the highest quality, I am refraining until more is learned about this outbreak. To me, the moderate benefits I receive when vaping CBD to relieve my anxiety do not outweigh the potentially deadly risks that appear to be associated with vaping.
Will the vaping issue impact the FDA's regulation of CBD? The FDA released a consumer update in November 2019 that outlined the agency's concerns with CBD. The most concerning element is the FDA's warning that CBD can cause liver damage. Leafly offers an excellent breakdown of the FDA's concerns. Vaping was not addressed in the FDA's consumer bulletin, but it's clear that the agency has concerns about CBD in any form. My hope is that the focus of any regulations is on weeding out companies producing bad products, and not on CBD or hemp products in general.
What are some vaping alternatives? If you still want to use CBD but avoid vaping for now, there are plenty of options. You could take an oil-based tincture, pop a gummy, sip a CBD-infused beverage or use a topical application.