Vaping Crisis: What Can Be Done? Adequate regulation is crucial

The dangers of tobacco use have finally been brought to light through regulatory agencies and policy makers. The new public health concern is vaping and the need for regulation is needed now more than ever.
Trista Best
Written by Trista Best, Registered Dietitian
Last Updated
Vaping

Tobacco has a colorful history since it became mainstream with marketing and promotions. It wasn’t long ago that you could find ads touting the alleged health benefits of cigarettes. The practice boomed during both world wars due to the “morale boosting” practice of providing free cigarettes to the troops.1

Fortunately, the Surgeon General stepped in, in the early 1960s to bring to light the false claims of the tobacco industry and the public policymakers which allowed them to be made.2 With the growth of science and research to back up the Surgeon General’s health risks claims the tobacco industry began to experience a decline in smoking. 

While the US and Western Europe have seen a much needed decline in tobacco use the industry has redirected its efforts to less developed nations like Africa, Latin America and the Middle East. 

The vaping industry has opened the door for tobacco to gain a new entry into American homes. Because of chemical contaminants, poor regulation, and misleading claims the tobacco and vaping industry needs reform and clear regulation. 

What Regulatory Agencies Have to Say?

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) along with the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) both have concerns with the use of e-cigarettes (vaping) and have made some clear statements regarding the use of this new method of consuming tobacco and other compounds. 

Electronic nicotine delivery systems (ENDS) are noncombustible tobacco products and in 2016 the FDA passed regulatory authority over to the Center for Tobacco Products (CTP) a regulatory arm of the FDA. 

The CDC routinely provides public announcements and education on the most recent injuries and illnesses associated with vaping. Most recently, updated October 11th of this year, there have been 1299 lung injuries associated with vaping and twenty-six deaths.3

Of the patients reporting lung injury, the majority have admitted using THC-containing products in their vaporizers. Because of this similarity among users the CDC recommends refraining from using products with THC and strongly urges vape users to refrain from nicotine containing vape products.  

Vaping Policy Concerns

While the FDA and CDC seem to support the recommendation to avoid vape and e-cigarette use, their backing seems to be quite limited. 

The only strong support for anti-vaping or vaping regulations, in general, comes from their recommendation to not use THC containing products.4The wide-spread use of chemical additives in vape products has gone unregulated for far too long. This is the primary point of concern at this time. 

The FDA provides little support for state health officials seeking better regulations for the manufacturing and distribution of vape products and ingredients. Since the CBD vaping industry has experienced a significant boom of the past decade with little regulation the industry has seen an influx of poorly formulated products. 

Health officials aren’t concerned with eliminating CBD or vaping just providing some sort of standards for safety among these products. The FDA’s regulation of vape oil additives is weak at best. The only regulations for additives is that they be tested for heat and inhalation exposure. This is a vague requirement with a lot of gray area. 

Vape Contaminants

So what is in vape oils? Thinning agents and flavoring are necessary to get cannabidiol (CBD) into the necessary form for use in the vaporizer. While these are essential there should and could be more effective ways of preventing harmful chemicals for passing as safe. 

The FDA approved thinning agents like propylene glycol and flavoring additives for use in food products years ago. That approval has carried over into their use in CBD products. This sounds legit, but the concern is these additives were reviewed and approved for oral ingestions rather than inhalation. 

What Is The Answer? 

In two words: research and regulation. Research needs to be done to adequately confirm the dangers of vaping. Conducting unbiased research on the dangers of both the mechanism and ingredients of vaping will provide regulators with the proper knowledge to make safety standards. 

With all that is already known regarding the dangers of vaping and additives regulation should be set immediately. Regulations based on inhalation rather than ingestion research of additives is needed. 

CBD users deserve the right to avoid dangers. When regulators and manufacturers are seemingly working together to cover up dangers and market void health claims there is a clear issue in the industry. This may an instance requiring each consumer to be their own health advocates. 

Sources:

  1. A Brief History of Smoking. Cancer Council website: https://www.cancercouncil.com.au/31899/uncategorized/a-brief-history-of-smoking/. Accessed October 12, 2019.
  2. Surgeon General’s Reports on Smoking and Tobacco Use. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website: https://www.cdc.gov/tobacco/data_statistics/sgr/index.htm. Accessed October 12, 2019.
  3. Outbreak of Lung Injury Associated with E-Cigarette Use, or Vaping. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website: https://www.cdc.gov/tobacco/basic_information/e-cigarettes/severe-lung-disease.html. Updated October 11, 2019. Accessed October 13, 2019.
  4. Vaping Illness Updated: FDA Warns Public to Stop Using THC-Containing Vaping Products and Any Vaping Products Obtained off the Street. Food and Drug Administration website: https://www.fda.gov/consumers/consumer-updates/vaping-illness-update-fda-warns-public-stop-using-tetrahydrocannabinol-thc-containing-vaping. Accessed October 13, 2019.
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Trista Best
Trista Best
Registered Dietitian
Trista Best is a Registered Dietitian, Public Health Dietitian, and former college Nutrition Professor. She completed her Bachelor of Science in Health Science from Armstrong Atlantic State University in 2009, Masters of Public Health Nutrition from Liberty University in 2014, and Bachelors of Science in Food and Environmental Sciences from the University of Alabama in 2018. Her dietetic background is in Public Health, Medical Grade Supplements, and Childhood Nutrition.

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