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States react to U.S. vaping crisis with bans, investigations

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Oct. 17 (UPI) — Individual states have taken steps to address the U.S. vaping crisis as federal agencies continue to investigate lung injuries that have killed 33 people and hospitalized 1,479 across the United States.

States have employed a variety of strategies to get a handle on the crisis including emergency bans of all vapes and e-cigarettes, temporary bans on flavored vapes, removal of vapes from shops and an accounting of vape cartridge additives. Some bans have been challenged by lawsuits.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has said that it still is unclear about what is causing the disease, which appears to be a chemical reaction in the lungs.

Federal investigators from CDC and the Food and Drug Administration say initial clues point to some kind of chemical in illicit THC vapes, but they have not yet identified specific substance or substances.

Patients who were hospitalized experienced symptoms of coughing, shortness of breath or chest pains, and some also suffered from nausea, vomiting or diarrhea, as well as fatigue, fever or weight loss, the CDC said.

Colorado to ban THC additives

This week in Colorado, three ingredients are likely going to be banned from cannabis vaping products by the state’s Marijuana Enforcement Division, starting Jan. 1, officials said. These are polyethylene glycol or PEG, vitamin E acetate and medium chain triglycerides, or MCT oil, derived from coconut oil.

Any other vaping additives must be listed on cannabis vaping packaging, which also would be required to include the statement “Not approved by the FDA.” Colorado voters legalized both medical and recreational cannabis five years ago.

Colorado has seen nine cases of the vaping lung illness, according to the state Department of Public Health and Environment. Colorado has the highest teen nicotine vaping rates in the nation, the health department said. No bans on nicotine vapes were announced, although the department is running an education campaign against teen vaping.

Oregon announces 6-month ban

Oregon Gov. Kate Brown this week announced a six-month ban on all flavored nicotine and cannabis vaping products, including both THC and CBD vapes. Recreational and medical cannabis is legal in Oregon.

“The best-available evidence from state and federal public health experts indicates that certain ingredients and compounds contained in flavored vaping products and additives have been found in cases of vaping-related lung injury and death,” a statement from the governor’s office said.

The state has created a Vaping Public Health Workgroup that will also make recommendations on labeling and ingredient testing.

Oregon’s state health department said 11 people have been hospitalized with the vaping-related illness, and two have died. One death was that of a person who obtained THC vapes through a legal dispensary, state health officials said last month.

Florida announces probe

Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody announced an investigation into retailers and out-of-state distributors of nicotine vaping products for sale in the state.

The investigation will examine “marketing practices and online sales strategies of these companies to determine if they have intentionally targeted minors, tempting them to vape,” Moody said in a statement.

Her office released a list of local Florida retailers and distributors in California, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, North Carolina and Nevada, including vaping market-leader Juul.

Juul announced Thursday that it was removing all fruity flavors from the market and will keep only mint and menthol flavors.

Two people have died in Florida from vape-related lung injuries, and a total of 68 cases have been reported to state health authorities. Medical marijuana is legal in Florida.

Temporary ban in Washington

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee last week announced a 120-day ban of all flavored vaping products, including nicotine cigarettes and THC vapes.

Washington residents can buy THC vapes at recreational and medical marijuana dispensaries. Washington’s State Board of Health has been crafting new rules regulating vaping products in the state, and is expected to release more recommendations.

Fifteen cases of lung injury have been confirmed by the board of health in Washington, but no deaths have been reported.

Michigan judge halts flavored vape ban

A Michigan Court of Claims judge halted the ban of flavored nicotine vapes in the state this week, and vape stores began to restock.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer ordered an emergency ban on flavored nicotine vaping products Oct. 2, but it was immediately challenged in court. Michigan has legalized medical marijuana, but recreational THC will not go on sale in the state until Jan. 1. Whitmer said she planned to appeal the ruling directly to the state Supreme Court.

One person has died in Michigan and about 30 confirmed or suspected vaping-related lung injury cases have been reported to the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services.

Court blocks New York ban

A state appellate court in Albany last week temporarily blocked New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo‘s proposed emergency executive action to ban flavored vapes.

Cuomo announced the ban on all flavored nicotine vapes in September.

New York has legalized medical marijuana and decriminalized marijuana possession, but lawmakers failed to pass the approval of recreational marijuana this year.

The New York State Department of Public Health in early September first identified vitamin E acetate as a possible ingredient in the outbreak. New York authorities issued subpoenas to distributors of vitamin E oil last month as part of a state investigation.

A Bronx teenager, 17, was the youngest person to die so far in the vaping crisis. There have been 110 reports of vaping-related lung injury so far in the state, New York health officials said.

California cracks down on THC vapes

In California, where recreational cannabis is legal, three people have died and 147 cases are being investigated by the California Department of Public Health. In June, San Francisco became the first major city in the country to ban the distribution and sale of all e-cigarette products.

California Gov. Gavin Newsom issued an executive order in September, urging a crackdown on both nicotine and THC vaping. The public health department issued a warning urging everyone to stop vaping both THC and nicotine.

California’s Bureau of Cannabis Control announced that a tip led to an October raid of a Canoga Park-based legal cannabis manufacturing facility that uncovered more than 7,000 defective cannabis cartridges that had failed state toxic-materials testing.

The bureau believed these products were being sold on the black market and were worth $21 million. Attorneys for marijuana company Kushy Punch said in a statement that the cartridges were “located in a single box labeled for destruction.”

Massachusetts total vape ban survives

In spite of a court challenge, Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker’s emergency four-month ban on all vaping products, both nicotine and THC, still stands.

A suit against the ban filed by several vaping companies was withdrawn in federal court this week, while a parallel state court case continues. Vaping companies argue that the ban is turning into an “economic disaster.”

The Bay State, where recreational marijuana became legal this year, has the most stringent state response to the vaping crisis. The Massachusetts Department of Public Health has reported 147 confirmed and probable cases of lung disease. One death has been reported.





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