Cuomo acts on vaping illness
Calls for subpoenas, ban on flavored e- cigarettes
Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo announced Monday that his administration is taking several steps to address a surge of vaping- related illnesses known to have killed at least five people this summer.
The governor directed the state Department of Health to issue subpoenas to companies marketing and selling thickening agents used in blackmarket vaping products. One thickening agent, vitamin E oil, has been identified as a possible culprit behind the illnesses.
Cuomo ordered the department to issue emergency regulations that will require vape shops to post signs warning of the dangers of vaping. The department will also launch a public service campaign to educate the public on vaping’s risks.
Finally, Cuomo said he will propose legislation to ban flavored e- cigarette
products in the state, citing an increase in youth e- cigarette use. Legislation advanced by Democratic lawmakers banning the use of flavored e- liquid died in the committee process at the Capitol this year.
“Common sense says if you do not know what you are smoking, don’t smoke it,” Cuomo said in a news conference Monday. “And right now, we don’t know what you are smoking in a lot of these vaping substances.”
Vitamin E oil
More than 500 vape users in dozens of states have been stricken this summer with a severe respiratory illness that initially baffled public health experts. But health investigators appear increasingly convinced that black- market THC products could be behind the illness, with New York’s Wadsworth Laboratory identifying high levels of vitamin E acetate — an oil — in nearly all cannabis- containing samples submitted for analysis by patients.
Used as a nutritional supplement and in topical skin products such as lotion, vitamin E oil has historically been safe when ingested or applied to the skin. But it appears that makers of bootleg THC vape cartridges are now using vitamin E oil to “thicken” or dilute their cannabis products. Health investigators believe the oil has a very different effect when heated up, vaporized and inhaled into the lungs.
Patients stricken with the illness have reported coughing, shortness of breath, chest pain, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, fatigue, fever, headache and weight loss.
The Wadsworth Lab obtained samples of thickeners from three companies — Honey Cut Labs LLC in California, Floraplex Terpenes in Michigan, and Mass Terpenes in Massachusetts — and determined they are nearly pure vitamin E oil.
The companies are only the first to be subpoenaed, and more are likely to be ordered to provide samples as the investigation continues, Cuomo’s office said.
Vaping advocates bristled at Cuomo’s announcement Monday that he would pursue a flavored e- cigarette ban, suggesting he is purposely confusing e- cigarettes with unregulated vape products bought off the street in order to stir up support for a flavor ban.
“Confusing e- cigarettes with unregulated street drugs will likely cause hundreds of thousands of New York vapers, many of whom have never used illicit THC products, to return to smoking cigarettes after being smoke- free for years,” the New York State Vapor Association said in a statement Monday.
Although New York’s investigation into the respiratory illnesses points to black- market THC vape products, information from federal health agencies has made it difficult to ascertain whether there are certain vape products that are safe to use.
THC- containing samples submitted elsewhere in the country have turned up no vitamin E oil, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control and the U. S. Food and Drug Administration.
Additionally, some of the stricken vape users have reported using nicotine- based vape products only, and at least one user reported using a cannabis product purchased from a legal marijuana shop in their state.
Gov. Andrew m. Cuomo announced a series of steps monday to address vaping- related illness. He told the state department of Health to subpoena vape ingredient makers, ordered that the public be educated on vaping’s risks, and says he’ll propose legislation to ban flavored e- cigarettes.