Recent tragedies of multiple deaths from lung failure relating to inhalation of nicotine products, some flavored, some not, some mainstream products, some illicit, have introduced an enormous and threatening uncertainty into the safety of every nicotine or marijuana product on the market.

Vitamin E acetate suspect

Definitive details are unclear, but there is suspicion that Vitamin E acetate, an oil that can be used to dissolve and dilute nicotine or cannabis oils, is at least one of the responsible agents that produces lung inflammation, some apparently non-reversible, that can produce death.

While the majority of serious cases so far are in persons inhaling vaporized nicotine, a subset have been cannabis users inhaling vaporized oils containing marijuana products (THC and CBD).

While very few of our Orchard Health Care members are cigarette smokers, there are some, and there are a moderate number of users of medical or social marijuana.

The takeaway: Don’t use vaping products

I would recommend for now that no one use any vaping product until the safety of this delivery mechanism is proven (the risk may be much larger than just added Vitamin E acetate).

For smoking cessation, there are many nicotine delivery products including patches, lozenges and gum. For marijuana, there are orally absorbed oils that are almost as quick acting as inhalants. Even traditional smoking of “weed” is apparently safe of this deadly contaminant.


2 Responses to “Vaping” Is Unknowingly Unsafe

  1. Tom Myers says:

    I’ve been spending a lot of time on the West Coast in the last year while working for a “health and wellness brand.” Some of the employees “vape.” Driving around I see storefronts serving vapers–to a greater extent than in the Boston Metrowest area.

    With everything in the news about vaping (and a former employee who credits vaping with his giving up cigarettes after 30-some years of smoking), I’ve talked to young vapers and heard the following:

    Vaping is essentially safe–well not really. The typical safety concerns–that vaping isn’t safe for anyone and that vaping is attracting kids into vaping–are largely without relevant context.

    Vaping is an industry of equipment and supplies. In that way it’s like a lot of other industries. Companies make equipment that vapers use with various vaping solutions. Because the industry’s roots are as an alternative to smoking tobacco, the typical solution contains nicotine. Yes, nicotine, the same poison you have in a bottle in the shed outback for treating aphids on your roses. Yeah, the bottle was bought before 2014, but it still works just fine. Like many biologically-derived pesticides, it appears to be using the tobacco plant’s defense against insects. (Plants can’t up and move away from bugs so they defend themselves with poisons–insecticides. Marigolds produce pyrethroids.) Nicotine has been extracted from tobacco plants since the 17th century.

    Nicotine is also a stimulant–a performance enhancing drug. It’s probably not good for you, but the most serious health problem with smoking is that tobacco smoke is loaded with “tar.” Tar is the lethal component in tobacco smoke, not nicotine. (Nicotine, for the most part, kills people in whodunnit novels–and then in massive quantities.)

    Vaping, like patches and gum, is a smoking cessation aid.

    If vaping is “bad” (and what isn’t?), it is bad because the “recreational” solutions are harmful. And as we start banning the solutions, we run into the problem that anyone can make a solution and put anything in it they like. Much like French Onion Soup, you can have your recipe and I can have mine. Campbell or Progresso may not suit us so we make our own. This, I’m told is true of vaping solutions. You or I can fool around and make a solution that pleases us. That solution may contain stuff that has no reason to be in our lungs. Tobacco smoke and marijuana smoke both come to my mind as stuff that shouldn’t be in my lungs but we live in a free state where both are perfectly legal.

    Is it any wonder that “fools” (see the early 20th century origins of the term “foolproof”) have created potions that include stuff that is legal but harmful. Cigarette manufacturers apparently did the same thing with cigarettes.

    Fools also “adjust” the equipment to get an enhanced effect. There are manufacturers’ instructions but YouTube was invented to help assemble gas grills and to tweak vaping equipment.

    I realize vaping is largely unknown and therefore scary, but I suspect we’d all be better off letting capers vape than first nagging smokers and now banning vaping. What’s a fella’ to do?

    My former employee tried everything to stop smoking–there are lots of ineffective approaches–until he found vaping. Now he gets a dose of nicotine with no tars. His overall health has improved after a few years of vaping. He’s highly confident that he’ll be able to walk his daughter down the aisle without wheezing and coughing (as seemed certain a few years ago).

    As for the young vapers (aka “students”), bubble gum and strawberry flavored vaping solutions (with performance enhancing drugs) are inevitable. We made no progress agains alcohol, cigarettes, glue, marijuana, or any other substance that was frowned upon.

    Getting rid of vaping and plastic straws seem like battles where the cost of victory exceeds the value.

    • DrKanner says:

      I was tardy on looking at comments, to my chagrin. In this case, since Tom’s supportive comments on vaping, we have seen the discovery of substantial unexpected risk of serious pulmonary harm from likely adulterated vaping materials, both nicotine and marijuana. So the whole argument about free v restricted availability now has a much larger public health component and unexpected serious risk. This will likely play out all during 2020. Keep tuned.

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