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Siegel: Utah DOH ‘unequivocally concludes’ nicotine vaping nonrelated to lung scandal

Siegel: Utah DOH ‘unequivocally concludes’ nicotine vaping nonrelated to lung scandal

Although New York, Michigan, and Massachusetts immediately implemented flavor bans in the earliest days of the “vaping-related” lung scandal, Utah decided to take a more measured approach.  Unlike Governors Andrew Cuomo (NY) and Gretchen Whitmer (MI), Utah’s Gary Herbert deferred to the State Department of Health to conduct its own thorough investigation.

On September 30, the Utah DOH issued a public report warning that the vaping of marijuana-based oils is the direct cause of the 71 cases of respiratory illness across the state.  Furthermore, the report also makes clear that virtually none of the nicotine-based vapor cartridges tested by the DOH contain the case-associated THC compounds related to the lung injuries.

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In the Monday edition of Tobacco Analysis, Dr. Michael Siegel takes the time to compare and contrast the differing regulatory reactions of the states of Michigan and Utah, and Utah clearly comes out on top.  According to his recent comments, Siegel believes that the Utah DOH is acting appropriately and responsibly.

“Unlike most other state health departments, which are conflating the respiratory disease outbreak associated with black market (and a few legal dispensary-sold) THC vaping products and the general problem of youth e-cigarette use, the Utah Department of Health has issued a report which unequivocally concludes that vaping marijuana is causing severe respiratory illness, which has now affected 71 residents in the state.”

Siegel is a professor of health sciences at Boston University, an advocate of vaping as a tobacco harm reduction tool, and a former scientist of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).   With specialized expertise in tobacco analysis and research, he has also regularly chastised his former employer for its intentionally vague warnings surrounding the current vaping-related scandal.

Related Article:  Former CDC official: Agency’s refusal to warn of ‘THC vaping’ likely contributed to rising death toll

In the past few months, Siegel has blasted CDC officials for failing to conduct standard urine testing on the now-over 1000 patients reportedly suffering from the mysterious respiratory disorder.  Doing so would have likely identified the true cause almost instantly – the vaping of THC-enhanced oils and cartridges – while completely negating FDA-regulated nicotine-based vapes.  In fact, Siegel has grown so angry over the CDC’s communications surrounding this life-threatening event that he issued a public admonishment of the agency just last Friday.

“I cannot overemphasize the level of irresponsibility that we are witnessing from the CDC. I can assure you that if I still worked at the CDC (I worked in the office that is leading this investigation), I would never have allowed this to occur.” 

Siegel applauds the state of Utah further by highlighting some of the important findings found in its DOH report.  He says that the evidence compiled through its internal investigation (that is completely non-dependent on the federally funded CDC or FDA investigations) is “overwhelming” in showing that nicotine-based vapor products have no direct linkage to the “vaping-related” lung ailments.

      • Of the 36 cases of lung injury reported in the state of Utah, 94 percent or 34 patients admitted to vaping cannabis products.
      • Of those 34 cases, every patient claimed to have vaped one of the following THC-infused brands: Dank Vapes, Smart Cart, Golden Gorilla, and Rove. These brands are also consistent with brands used by patients in other states.
      • Of the 19 marijuana-based cartridges tested, 89 percent or 17 cartridges tested positive for the Vitamin E acetate oil linked to the lung disease.
      • Of the 20 nicotine-based cartridges tested, zero were found to have THC-associated contaminants or abnormalities that contribute to the respiratory disorder.
      • Most patients claimed to have purchased their THC cartridges illegally.

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In contrast, Siegel notes that Michigan’s Governor Whitmer rashly issued an executive order that fails to mention THC-enhanced products entirely.  The Michigan DOH simply issued a rather generic public warning stating, "Individuals should consider refraining from vaping until the specific cause of the vaping-related lung injuries has been identified." By refusing to include the vaping of marijuana-based cartridges in its report and implying that nicotine-based products are responsible, Michigan’s governor and its DOH may have negligently contributed to the rising death toll nationwide.

Is Michigan legally liable for issuing incorrect vaping warnings?

To make matters worse, Siegel suggests that the first draft of the Michigan DOH statement included references to THC-vape cartridges, but officials “made a conscious decision to remove the mention of THC entirely from the warning.  He continues by saying that the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services should be held legally responsible for future cases of marijuana-vaping illness or death due to the DOH’s inadequate, improper, and misleading public warnings in the early days of the event.

Related Article:  Vape bans update: State by State

(Image courtesy of San Francisco Chronicle)

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