ALBANY, N.Y. – Media reports said New York Governor Andrew Cuomo on Monday issued a statement with more information on the mysterious vaping-related respiratory condition that has swept 33 states including New York and affected more than 450 patients.
“The rise in vaping-associated illnesses is a frightening public health phenomenon, and I am directing the [N.Y.] Department of Health to take several actions to address this crisis, including starting an investigation into some of these companies that produce vaping substances to find out what’s in it, and requiring that smoke and vape shops post a warning that lets people know that this is a risky activity,” Cuomo said in a statement issued to the media, as reported by RollingStone.com.
The investigation issued subpoenas to three companies that manufacture thickening agents containing Vitamin E acetate, also known as tocopheryl acetate. The subpoenas ordered all of the companies to cooperate with the vaping investigation being conducted by U.S. Food and Drug officials. Investigators with the Centers for Disease Control and public health officials in multiple states are also involved with investigations.
The three companies that received subpoenas are Mass Terpenes based in Amherst, Massachusetts, which manufactures product Pure Diluent; Santa Monica, California-based Honey Cut Labs LLC, which sells Honey Cut Diluting Agent; and Michigan-based Floraplex Terpenes that sells Uber Thick.
As indicated in media reports, the Honey Cut Labs website had been completely wiped from the Internet by Tuesday. Both Mass Terpenes and Floraplex remain online. Neither Mass Terpenes nor Floraplex have posted information on the sites related to the products in question or involvement in current investigations.
The three named products have been removed from availability. Allegedly, the products had been marketed with Vitamin E acetate as the primary ingredient. Public health officials in New York have commented that “illicit’ cannabis oil cartridges may be related to the vaping-related illness, citing thickening agents often used in “street vapes.”
Vitamin E acetate, which can be found in topically applied products, was the focus of early speculation by public health officials. Used as a thickening agent for cannabis oil, investigators speculated that heating Vitamin E acetate, which occurs during the vaping process, might alter the molecular structure and result in unknown, possibly toxic effects.
The American Vaping Association (AVA), which is a trade organization for the nicotine e-cigarette and vape industry, has aggressively pointed to illegal cannabis vape products as the cause of the increasing, potentially fatal respiratory cases.
In an AVA press release, Dr. Michael Siegel, Professor of Public Health at the Boston University School of Health was quoted and criticized the CDC for weaponizing the “outbreak” in order to vilify e-cigarettes.
“The rest of the story is that the parameters that the CDC has established for its investigation will ensure that it has the ability to invoke electronic cigarettes as being a possible cause for the outbreak,” Siegel said. “This tells me that the CDC is more interested in protecting the illicit, underground THC vape cart black market than truly protecting the health of our nation’s youth. Apparently, being able to continue to demonize electronic cigarettes is more of a priority.”
E-cigarettes, like JUUL, and flavored e-juice products have also recently come under fire, due to concerns about underage use and false medical claims. On September 4, Michigan became the first state to ban flavored e-liquids and vape products, which many feel attract underage users.
JUUL Chief Executive Officer Kevin Burns was interviewed at the end of August by CBS News, and responded to concerns by advising those who don’t use tobacco not to begin vaping.
The first death attributed to the vaping-related condition was reported in Illinois on August 23. The first fatality has been followed by deaths in Indiana, Oregon, California, Minnesota, and Kansas with six individuals deceased and hundreds more affected.