Public health expert: State vape bans conflating nicotine and THC are massively ‘deceptive’

On Monday, a Massachusetts Superior Court judge said a statewide vape ban implemented by Governor Charlie Baker is likely “unlawful,” but the administration has 7-days to rewrite and resubmit.  Plaintiffs in the lawsuit claim that the governor is guilty of “executive over-reach, which violates state constitutional separation-of-powers principles, and its arbitrary and capricious.” 

In early October, headlines began appearing across the state of a 60-year old women allegedly dying from a “vaping-related illness.”  Details about the fatality are minimal, specifically regarding whether the woman was vaping marijuana-based or FDA-regulated nicotine vapes.  However, both the FDA and the CDC have already issued public health warnings against that vaping of THC-enhanced vapor cartridges, especially those acquired from the Black Market. 

Related Article: Judge orders rewrite of Massachusetts vaping ban within 7-days; THC vapes still not addressed

Strangely, even though zero of the reported 300+ deaths allegedly caused by a “vaping related” lung disorder has been directly linked to the vaping of conventional nicotine-based vapes, these are the very products that Gov. Baker’s executive order seeks to prohibit.  No mention of cannabis or THC vaping is referenced in his emergency action.

Massachusetts vaping ban should focus only on Black Market THC products

The governor’s conflation of nicotine and THC is “deceptive,” says Dr. Michael Siegel of the Boston University Department of Public Health and a former tobacco control expert of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. During an interview with Boston’s WBUR Radio station last week, Siegel made the following claims.

“[The U.S. Food and Drug Administration] issued a very clear statement saying, ‘Do not vape THC.’ They didn't say, ‘Don't vape nicotine cartridges.’ They didn't say, ‘Stop buying products that are bought at stores.’ They said specifically, ‘Stop buying black market products, especially those that contain THC.’”
 “So yes, there are some medical professionals who are trying to take advantage of this outbreak, I think, to get rid of e-cigarettes. But the FDA — they know the ingredients of all these products because the companies that are selling them had to disclose those ingredients. So, I think that it's time for the medical professionals to listen to what the FDA is saying.”

Related Article:  Montana becomes 4th state to temporarily halt vape ban; Will Massachusetts be next?

Siegel also provides scientific data that clearly illustrates that FDA-regulated nicotine vapor products have no place in Gov. Baker’s vaping ban legislation.  According to the research, there have been ten reported cases of “vaping-related” respiratory illness in the state since the early summer.  Nine of those patients have openly admitted to vaping THC-enhanced oils. The making of overly generic statements about avoiding vaping in general is irresponsible and “not helpful,”, Siegel continues. 

“It would be like if we had an outbreak of contaminated lettuce and the health department put out a warning saying, ‘Do not eat any vegetables.’ That's not helpful…”
“So, I think that this is a very important principle in public health: when there is reasonable evidence that something is causing a disease, we take action at that point. And I think that right now, we have not only reasonable but very strong evidence that black market vaping products are responsible for this. And to try to lump nicotine products that are being sold by stores into that mix is very deceptive. And it really, I think, undermines the important message that the public needs to be getting, which is to avoid black market products, especially [those with] THC.”

If Gov. Charlie Baker is ignorant of the differences between nicotine and THC, then his actions are extremely negligent and potentially harmful to public health.  If his failure to focus on THC vaping rather than FDA-regulated nicotine is intentional, then Baker may be complicit in any future deaths of Massachusetts citizens unsuspectingly continuing to vape medical or recreational marijuana.  According to Siegel, Baker’s new-and-improved emergency regulations demanded by the court should focus entirely on the public health dangers of vaping of Black Market THC vapes.  Period.   

Related Article: Judge orders rewrite of Massachusetts vaping ban within 7-days; THC vapes still not addressed

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