The U.S Continues to Prove an Insightful Testing Ground for Countries Considering Cannabis Vaping Legalization
Countries on the verge of legalizing some form of cannabis use are closely watching recent developments of cases of vaping-induced lung illness in the U.S. So far, hundreds of cases have been reported in the U.S, but none has yet been reported in neighboring Canada, which is currently considering legalizing vaping and edibles as cannabis delivery methods.
But with the country’s illicit vaping market worth $1 billion, Canadian health officials are keeping a weathered eyed out for any reports of new cases. Some believe it’s not a question of if, but when it’ll happen. “There is no doubt in my mind that we will see cases pop up in Canada in the next few weeks now that we have started really looking for it.” decried Dr. Bonnie Henry, British Columbia’s provincial health officer.
In the U.S the wave of the new case began in the Midwest in July, and is currently surging past 450 reported cases across 36 states and one U.S territory. Common symptoms included shallow breath, fatigue, chest pain, diarrhea, and nausea. With majority of the patients being adolescents and young adults and most diagnosis pointing to the inhalation of caustic smoke, there seem to be a strong correlation between the emergence of these new cases and the increasing trendiness of vaping across the country.
Over six deaths have been recorded so far, all adults, with a few having had a pre-existing lung condition or other ailments which exacerbated the problem. In other less lethal cases, young patients, previously healthy, have been placed on life support.
Is There an Established Correlation Between Vaping and the Surging Number of Lung-Illness Cases?
Presently, health experts lack conclusive evidence to establish a link between the new cases of lung illness and vaping. However, evidence gathered so far point to vitamin E acetate as the culprit. Vitamin E acetate is a thickening agent widely used in the black market for vaping cartridges to dilute vape oils. But oily vitamin E droplets can induce pneumonia when its droplets are inhaled.
The fact that no cases have yet been reported in Canada, which has a similar vaping black market to that of the U.S, indicates that vaping itself might not be the actual causative agent, but perhaps certain substance used in some vaping products.
Maryse Durette, a top spokeswoman for Health Canada and the Public Health Agency of Canada, says some restrictions placed on e-cigarettes and tobacco vape products might be helping the country suppress the emergence of these cases. Canada currently limits the minimum age of buying e-cigarettes to 19, and also prohibits the promotion and advertisement of these products.
However, Durette isn’t ruling out any possibilities of things turning out differently than anticipated. “We’re on the lookout, heavily,” she noted. “We have rules in place that might prevent this kind of product to come into Canada. But the border being what it is, the internet being it what it is, people ordering what they want on the internet, we just have not had any cases in Canada yet.”
But rather than outlaw vaping, some health experts believe the best way to protect the public against exposure to Vitamin E oil is by legalizing vaping to better regulate the market. The legalization of vaping would significantly stem the patronage of black market sellers who adulterate their products, putting quality checks in place that’ll help buyers avoid adulterated products.
Nonetheless, as countries continue to keep close tabs on the developments in the U.S, they’re also on the lookout for emergence of any cases back at home. Health officials are encouraging vape users to come forward if they experience any symptoms. Doctors have also been informed on how to quickly identify possibilities of vaping-induced lung illnesses, including by directly asking patients about their vaping habits.
The Future of Vaping Cannabis Oil
As the situation unfolds in the U.S, many health experts who once antagonized vaping have reasserted their stance. Dr. Bonnie is one of them. However, both sides can agree that adhering to some precautions can go a long way in helping users avoid the dangers. “Any time you are inhaling chemicals into your lungs, you don’t know what’s in those chemicals,” said Dr. Bonnie. “Certainly, from the unregulated a lot of what is still on the market are ones that are being produced in China where there is really a lot of stuff in them and you don’t know what it is, so I suspect it is something toxic in the products in the many different liquids that are being used.” Anne McLellan, the former Canadian health, justice and public safety minister, has given a profound advice on the matter: “The message in public health is, you shouldn’t do this until we know a lot more.”