BILLINGS — President Trump adjusted his stance on vaping in just the last week, from the potential ban of all flavored e-cigarettes to issuing a statement on Friday urging Americans to avoid counterfeit products.
Additionally, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has updated their definition of those with potential vaping related illness from 450 possible cases down to 380 confirmed and probable cases. Six deaths have been reported in association with the use of e-cigarettes.
The FDA and the Trump Administration issued a statement Friday urging the importance of not purchasing counterfeit vaping products. Vaping itself is fairly new, and there are many unknowns, such as long-term effects.
“They can’t pinpoint an exact common denominator in all of these, but they know that people who have been sick have been using e-cigarettes with nicotine as well as e-cigarettes with THC, the active ingredient in marijuana,” said St. Vincent Healthcare Internal Medicine Specialist Dr. Erica Bruen.
“Some have been purchased in stores that have been selling them. Some have been purchased off the street. There’s also some thought that people will make their own concoctions and put them in the vaping devices as well,” Dr. Bruen added.
One particular substance is suspected to be responsible, as it was commonly reported in many of the cases.
“The pulmonary complications are thought to be related to maybe the oils that they are suspending the product in in these cartridges and they did find a common denominator with some vitamin E oil recently, and some other acetals,” Dr. Bruen said.
It is believed that it is being added to off-the-street cannabis products in order to help them form a vapor.
“Maybe vitamin E oil sounds safe because we use it on our skin or we can take it in a capsule form, but once you inhale that in your lungs your lungs don’t have a way of getting rid of that,” Dr. Bruen told MTN News.
What exactly is happening in the bodies of those who are ill?
“GI tract, skin, our lungs don’t really have a good way to get rid of it other than recruiting our own immune system to take care of it, so that is the theory, or what seems to be causing that same process in people’s lungs, but it’s leading to people on ventilators,” Dr. Bruen said. “It’s not responsive to antibiotics so it’s a pretty serious concern.”
A vape shop owner in Billings also weighed in.
“We’re just trying to advocate for ourselves and our community, and for our current vapers,” B-Town Vapes Director of Business Nicholas said.
He maintained there is a benefit to vaping as opposed to smoking cigarettes, when the correct ingredients are used.
“There’s 4,000 chemicals inside of a cigarette alone, and then there’s 72 carcinogens. When you vape there’s only four chemicals or ingredients into vaping. And of those four, one is propylene glycol, vegetable glycerin, and flavoring as well as pharmaceutical grade nicotine,” Nicholas said.
B-Town vapes e-liquids are all made in ISO Peer labs, per a US Food and Drung Administration requirement, which Nicholas says ensures the customer knows what they’re getting.
“Our in-house e-liquid is made in an ISO Peer lab because the FDA put that into stipulation that as of August 2018, all e-liquids need to be made in an ISO peer lab,” Nicholas said.
“Basically, this means that cannot make an e-liquid in your store, so that means that you cannot walk into a shop and have it made right in front of you, because you don’t know what you’re getting. All of our stuff is made in an ISO Peer lab and registered with the FDA,” he added.
He also urged the importance of purchasing products from a legitimate vendor.
“We do a lot of research inside of our shop, so we try to give as much knowledge as possible to the community so that they know what the possible risk of it is, whether it be the mod that they’re carrying, the batteries that are affiliated with it,” Nicholas said.
“But the e-liquid itself, we try to educate them, because there is a different milligram strength. We try to educate them, and not just throw them on a nicotine level -- to help them transition from smoking to vaping to help them quit,” he added.