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

A former scientist for the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is now blasting the agency for its refusal to adequately warn of a marijuana vaping crisis that is claiming at least twenty lives.  As mainstream media aggressively promoted the event for over three months as being vaping-related rather than cannabis-related, CDC officials sat idly by, seemingly refusing to clarify the true cause - black market THC-enhanced cartridges.

On Thursday, the National Opinion Research Center (NORC) at the University of Chicago released the results of a new survey entitled, Public believes Nicotine-based smoking and vaping products are more harmful than those containing THC.  Alarmingly, the results indicate that 54 percent of respondents wrongly believe that conventional nicotine-based vapor products like JUUL are directly responsible for the mysterious lung illness popping up in nearly every state in the union. Only 38 percent believe that the vaping of THC-infused products is harmful.  Meanwhile, one-third of those surveyed reportedly believe that there is absolutely nothing wrong with vaping marijuana.

As death toll escalated over the summer, CDC remained silent

Former CDC employee Dr. Michael Siegel who is now a Professor of Community Health Sciences at Boston University School of Public Health finds this data “shocking.”  In a recent Op-Ed posted last Friday on Tobacco Analysis, Siegel clearly blames the CDC’s “deliberately vague” messaging campaign intentionally designed to eradicate the American vaping industry which the CDC “has despised” for years.

“Even though 100% of these patients were vaping black market THC, the CDC made nothing of that information and refused to warn the public not to vape black market THC, instead remaining deliberately vague in its warning in order to be able to implicate nicotine electronic cigarettes, which it has despised ever since they came on the market.”

Siegel also points to a recent article appearing in North Carolina Health News which discusses the early days of the outbreak.  According to the article, physicians investigating the first three vaping-related cases in the early summer of 2019 immediately noticed that all three patients claimed to have vaped THC.

Related Article:  Siegel: CDC’s refusal to conduct urine testing of lung patients ‘inexcusable’

The doctors reportedly notified the CDC instantly while explicitly mentioning that an urgent “importance of awareness of a potential association between use of marijuana oils or concentrates in e-cigarettes and lipoid pneumonia.”  However, this doctors’ dire warning fell on deaf ears.  The CDC’s public messaging strategies remained relatively unchanged for over ten weeks. 

“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,” says Dr. Siegel.

Once the NORC survey results were published, Siegel became “convinced beyond a doubt.” The CDC’s refusal to clearly communicate the real public health threat of marijuana vaping to the general public did nothing to prevent potential future respiratory illness and may have even contributed to the numbers of associated medical diagnosis throughout the nation.

“After seeing this new survey results, I am now convinced beyond a doubt that this failed communication is making the outbreak worse than it would have been had the CDC clearly communicated to the public the connection that the guy on the street realized weeks ago. The message has simply not come across because the CDC, and in turn state health departments, are more concerned about implicating nicotine-containing electronic cigarettes than in actually trying to prevent further cases of this severe illness.”

A few months ago, only a couple of hundred of patients had reported lung injuries due to vaping THC.  Today, that number is over 1000 and growing.  There are also now at least twenty possible deaths attributed to the vaping of contraband THC-infused cartridges and oils.  And at least five state governors have actively signed executive orders banning flavored vapes from store shelves statewide while doing nothing to curtain cannabis or tobacco purchases whatsoever.

Related Article:  NYU public health expert: Banning e-cigs and not ‘antiquated cigarettes’ is harmful to public health

(Image courtesy of Shutterstock)

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