Thu, Sep 12, 2019 - Page 9 News List

Vaping leaves a trail of dire cases across the US

The US Centers for Disease Control says more than 450 cases of vaping injuries have been identified, many tied to cannabis products

By Robert Langreth and Craig Giammona  /  Bloomberg

However, companies that are cutting corners, or targeting the black market, might use substances to dilute the oil with chemicals that can be dangerous when heated.

Zack Krubeck, 24, is the manager of Level Vape, a shop near Chicago’s Wicker Park neighborhood, said said he thinks that some people try to “cheap out” when using THC products and then “get what they paid for.”

“It’s cheaper, but not safe,” Krubeck said.

KushCo Holdings, a cannabis vape and packaging company, makes about 66 percent of its revenue from the sale of vaping hardware, providing pens and empty cartridges to THC processors that fill them with oil and sell them at dispensaries.

They also sell cutting agents used to dilute cannabis oil. In recent days, the company has fielded several calls from customers asking if they use vitamin E acetate in any of their cutting agents, chief executive officer Nick Kovacevich said. He said they do not.

He is doubtful that the recent headlines would curtail cannabis vaping and argued it would push customers to seek out products from known brands sold in licensed stores.

“We’ve been conditioned that marijuana is safe, but this is a different ballgame,” he said. “This could be a catalyst that drives more people to the legal market.”

While the injuries have made headlines, some consumers do not seem particularly concerned — particularly compared to the well-known dangers of smoking, which is tied to hundreds of thousands of deaths every year in the US, many from long-time users who develop cancer after years of smoking.

In Dallas, a steady stream of customers came in and out of the All Vapes store on Friday afternoon. The store is on the main drag of a hip neighborhood known as Deep Ellum just outside downtown Dallas, populated by trendy restaurants, bars and funky storefronts.

Brandalyn Bishop, 37, was a smoker for more than 20 years and used e-cigarettes to quit. She said she is a little concerned about all the talk of safety issues, but trusts All Vapes’ products, which are made on-site.

Anyway, “it’s not as bad as cigarettes,” she said.

Next to the cash register, store Manager Jessica Hash, 26, has set out a binder full of printouts responding to all the recent news about vaping making people sick.

All Vapes says it uses only food-quality flavorings that are used in other consumer products such as ice cream and chewing gum.

Hash thinks the problem is on the black market, with marijuana-infused cartridges using oil-based liquids and chemical-contaminated weed.

“Vaping is a verb,” she said. “If people are saying vaping is making you sick, it’s like saying drinking is making you sick. Well, what are you drinking?”

Down the street at Wizard’s Vapor Bar & Smoke Shop, customer Kimberly Mathieu said she switched to vaping on her doctor’s advice to help her break a heavy cigarette habit.

“It’s going to be bad one way or the other,” she said.

There is another option: Follow the CDC’s advice and do not vape until the risks are better understood, Aberegg said.

“It is completely not safe at all to vape THC-containing products. And it may not be safe to vape anything. We just don’t know yet,” he said.

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