By Angela Underwood
While pending nationwide vape bans through executive orders remain held up in litigation due to business industry outrage, another e-cigarette or vaping product use associated lung injury (EVALI) death occurred.
When the New York Daily Weed Report covered the issue last week, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) reported 1,479 vaping lung injury cases in 49 states, with 33 confirmed deaths in 24 states. A week later, the CDC says it is now 1,604 cases in 49, with 34 deaths in the same regions, including the District of Columbia and the U.S. Virgin Islands.
Along with the recent death is new data, reporting those most effected by EVALI are young patients, with products containing THC playing a significant role in the outbreak.
“Among 867 patients with available data on specific e-cigarette, or vaping, product use in the three months preceding symptom onset, 86% reported use of THC-containing products, 64% reported use of nicotine-containing products, 52% reported use of both THC-containing products and nicotine-containing products, 34% reported exclusive use of THC-containing products, and 11% reported exclusive use of nicotine-containing products,” the CDC reports.
While the facts remain frightening, so does the delay in organic and regulated cannabis, according to the only publicly traded cannabis extraction company in the U.S., as well as a regulatory attorney. Michael Cammarata, CEO of Neptune Wellness Solutions, and Anna Wiand, an attorney with Gray Robinson, a Washington DC and Florida-based firm, have been following the crisis and agree bans should be replaced with regulation to eliminate dangerous synthetics.
“When it comes to the cannabis sector and the vaping issue, the interesting thing is that it points out to the consumer, who is the controller at the end of the day, that synthetics are bad,” Cammarata said. “In the vaping situation, people are using different synthetics with carriers, which are going right into the lung and becoming a solid pretty quickly.”
That is why Cammarata wants to focus on organic surrogates.
“The consumers who are smoking weed and using hemp-based products are the consumers who are at the core of the natural movement,” Cammarata said. “They want plant-based alternatives. They don’t want products with pesticides; they don’t want products with synthetic fragrance; they don’t want products that have chemicals; they want the most natural, organic solution that you can get to.”
In the meanwhile, Wiand said the pending nationwide vape ban would likely be solved state by state due to the bans being enacted by executive order.
“As a general matter, executive action leaders, which are governors, in this case, do have authority to do things like this for public health and safety reasons, and that is sort of the guise I have seen coming up. However, for example, in the New York case, it wasn’t that the governor just passed the ban, it was the New York Public Health and Health Planning Council,” she said.
Wiand said e-cigarette vape bans, which are being appealed nationwide by small businesses and associations, are becoming an undue burden on industry.
“These bans, which are happening outside of the traditional legislative process where you have some commentary period, are hitting the industry hard,” she explained. “One day, something that you are selling is completely legal, and the next day all of your product is no longer legal.”
When and if the bans are lifted and e-cigarettes return to market in some states, taxation will be the next issue to tackle, said Wiand.
“In the context of vape products, you have shops that are essentially manufacturing the liquid, so it is a different process to tax and has been very interesting to watch from a regulatory perspective,” she said, noting that while she could not foretell how any of the bans would play out, that national marijuana legalization would keep her busy as a regulatory attorney.
Cammarata said the vaping bans are becoming a consumer awakening.
“As the consumers are demanding more quality from products and labels, we’ll be pushing forth legislation that is going to make products safer, not only in the vaping industry but throughout the whole household,” he said, suggesting regulation should go beyond vaping. “Every product that people use throughout their households like shampoos have synthetic fragrances that get aerosolized into the shower over many years and can cause potential health issues.”