Cuomo acts on va­p­ing ill­ness

Calls for sub­poe­nas, ban on fla­vored e- cig­a­rettes

Albany Times Union - - FRONT PAGE - By Bethany Bump

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.

In­dus­try re­sponds

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.


Pro­vided by the of­fice of the Gover­nor

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.

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