With a whimper not a bang, CDC finally closes the case on ‘vaping related’ EVALI

Just as fears over the coronavirus were beginning to escalate, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) quietly announced that it is stopping its bi-weekly updates concerning EVALI.  The agency has drawn criticism from numerous public health experts for its consistent refusal to properly describe the surge in respiratory injuries as THC related rather than vaping related.

The latter terminology strongly implies that nicotine-based vapor products are highly suspect as a likely culprit for the mysterious lung ailment, even though the CDC’s own research indicates otherwise.  As far back as December 2019, the CDC publicly acknowledged that nearly all hospitalized patients with EVALI had self-reported usage of over 150 THC-containing cartridges while no diagnoses could be directly linked to nicotine-based vapes. 

Related Article:  CDC finally confirms: ZERO nicotine-based e-cigs linked to ‘vaping-related’ illness

In a February 25 press release, the CDC seems to be finally closing the books on the “vaping related” conundrum once and for all.  After noting that the number of new EVALI cases is in decline, the agency also says that the number of EVALI-related deaths seems to have topped out at around 68 in some 29 states. 

“Due to continued declines in new EVALI cases since September 2019, and the identification of vitamin E acetate as a primary cause of EVALI, today’s release is the final biweekly CDC update on the number of hospitalized EVALI cases and deaths nationally. CDC will continue to provide assistance to states, as needed, related to EVALI and will provide future updates as needed at: www.cdc.gov/lunginjury.”

The CDC also says that the decline in new cases is largely due to “increased public awareness of the risk associated with THC-containing e-cigarette, or vaping, product use as a result of the rapid public health response.”  However, the CDC was still generically labeling the cause of the lung injuries as being tied to conventional vaping products just a few short weeks ago.  In a February 11 tweet, the CDC stated the following.

“UPDATE: As of 2/4, 2,758 cases of hospitalized e-cigarette, or vaping, product use-associated lung injury (EVALI) or deaths reported from all 50 states, DC, & 2 US territories (Puerto Rico & USVI). 64 deaths confirmed in 28 states & DC. http://cdc.gov/lunginjury

Worth noting is that fact that nowhere in that tweet does the CDC even mention THC.  While “increased public awareness” may be responsible for the decline in EVALI diagnoses and associated deaths, it’s likely no thanks to the CDC.  Instead of issuing public statements emphasizing the dangers of vaping THC-containing liquids purchased from black market vendors, the CDC literally spent months peddling terribly misleading information. 

Dr. Michael Siegel as right about the EVALI outbreak the entire time

Public health experts grew so concerned with the inadequacies and inaccuracies of the CDC’s response throughout the past fall and winter that they began speaking out to mainstream media.  In an August 28 interview published in USA Today, Boston University professor Dr. Michael Siegel accused the CDC of being “unintentionally vague” about the impending health crisis.

When the CDC continued to spread false and misleading information about the true cause of the EVALI disorder, Siegel then issued a more alarming statement on the website Tobacco Analysis in September.  In that article, Siegel warned, “don’t let the CDC fool you” and that the agency was essentially “playing with children's health and lives” by refusing to be totally transparent and truthful with the American People. 

Related Article:   Siegel: ‘Don’t let the CDC fool you;’ Agency is playing with children’s lives

(Image courtesy of Shutterstock)

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