As you likely know, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), state and local health departments, and other clinical and public health partners are investigating a multistate outbreak of severe lung disease associated with the use of both regulated and illicit vapor products. This investigation is ongoing and has not identified a single cause, but all reported cases have a history of using vapor products. Most patients with severe lung disease have reported a history of using vapor products containing THC. Some have reported the use of vapor products containing only nicotine.
Today, Gov. Inslee issued Executive Order 19-03: Addressing the Vaping Use Public Health Crisis. This order directs the Liquor and Cannabis (LCB) and the Department of Health (Health) to take certain actions immediately to protect public health. Those actions are reflected below as numbers 1 and 3. In addition, the agencies are directed to work together to draft legislative proposals to bring tighter regulation to the non-cannabis vapor industry. Additional information will be coming soon regarding the ban flavored vape products.
Working with Industry and Public Health
The LCB is working closely with Health, cannabis regulators in other states, and others to address this issue. LCB staff recently met with cannabis and vapor industry representatives to learn more about how vapor products are processed, where additives are sourced, as well as ways we may collaborate on this important public health issue.
Four actions have come forward that licensees and LCB can do now while public health officials conduct their investigation:
- Signage. Prominently post this warning sign in retail locations. This required sign is co-branded with the Washington State Department of Health. A Spanish version will soon be available that may be posted as an additional sign.
- Clarify rule regarding additives on packaging and labeling. There is some confusion among industry members that certain additives, like terpenes, imported CBD, and other cannabinoids didn’t need to be disclosed on packaging. Current rules require all product components on packaging (WAC 314-55-105).
- Disclose to LCB all compounds (including ingredients, solvents, additives, etc.) used in the production and processing of products that are vaped and vaping devices themselves. Public health officials have requested assistance in gathering additional information about ingredients in vapor products. We will soon be sending an email to licensees linking to a form to use to disclose the above to LCB.
- Cooperate with the ongoing epidemiological investigation. Local, state and federal health agencies are looking into which products have been involved with Washington cases of disease. We ask for your cooperation if you are contacted by someone from their epidemiology team and/or a representative from your local health jurisdiction.
Voluntary Efforts by Retailers
Some licensed retailers are voluntarily communicating with their customers about the health issue and allowing concerned customers to easily return purchased vapor products. While not included in the LCB required signage, some retailers are communicating with customers online and via bag stuffers with messages about:
- How to return products;
- Advising customers not to tamper with the devices; and
- Customer service phone numbers and emails for people with concerns.
As demonstrated by industry members in attendance at a meeting September 13, 2019, this is a public health issue that concerns us all. We appreciate your collaboration and cooperation.
For more information on this topic, please visit:
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
- Food and Drug Administration
- Washington State Department of Health
- Inslee’s Announcement of Executive Order 19-03
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Over 500 people, including teenagers and seniors, have been hospitalized with problems ranging from shortness of breath to severe nausea and coughing up blood. Nine deaths have been reported thus far. The likely cause is “unknown chemical exposure,” according to the CDC, which has not been able to conclusively link a single product or substance to vaping disease incidents. Any number of questionable chemical combinations could be the culprit.
Of those who were stricken by vaping-related lung disease, some had been using only nicotine e-cigarettes. But most cases have involved people who vaped poor quality, unlicensed cannabis oil products. Many of the same sketchy additives that are ubiquitous in e-cigarettes are present in cannabis and CBD vape oil blends. CBD vapes can easily be purchased from head shops, gas stations, internet storefronts, and an assortment of less-than-savory underground sources.
Some black market vape oil products are also spiked with potent synthetic intoxicants (erroneously described as “synthetic marijuana”) and other dubious compounds, such as vitamin E acetate.
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