THC vaping outbreak – The deadly consequences of an unregulated market

Alexander Dance
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Cannabis, Technology
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26 people have now lost their lives to a mysterious illness caused by the use of e-Cigarettes. 

The CDC has confirmed that there have now been 1,299 lung injuries associated with using e-cigarette, or vaping, products with no sign of decline. 

Another key aspect of the outbreak is that many of the cases involve vaping products that contain THC.

As stated on the CDC’s website, the specific chemical exposure causing the lung injuries is still unknown. 

‘The outbreak is occuring in a dynamic marketplace for e-cigarette, or vaping, products, which may have a mix of ingredients, complex packaging and supply chains, and include potentially illicit substances’ 

‘Users may not know what is in their e-cigarette or e-liquid solutions. Many of the products and substances can be modified by supplier or users…’ 

Studies suggest that it isn’t vaping itself that is causing lung problems but specific chemicals that are put in certain unregulated products.

Electronic smoking devices need stricter regulations to prevent problems like this which will only be done in the context of THC vaping products once cannabis is fully legalized. NJ Senate President Stephen Sweeney stated that “the utter lack of regulation on vaping products has made the black market and the legal market nearly indistinguishable” 

Mark Haoshi, CEO and founder of Doja, a cannabis review app stated that “The current black market comes with you know, a cartridge that has a brand that has a social media that has websites.”  

The black market utilizes platforms like the internet to entice people into buying counterfeit products which look legitimate however are anything but. This is a serious transparency issue, especially when you consider how large the black market actually is. Wisconsin authorities uncovered an illegal vape-cartridge operation that was producing thousands of cartridges every day for 2 years. Products that are not tested and pose a serious safety issue on thousands of unsuspecting victims. 

He went onto mention that “the legalization bill would create an organized, well-regulated market with safeguards and oversight. Unlike vaping, the products will be tested, analyzed and approved from seed to sale.” 

But until the government steps up their game and fully determines the state of cannabis legalization, this could be a crucial point for the cannabis industry to determine the measures which will be taken to improve the state of people’s health and safety. The need for transparency within the industry is more clear than ever, it is now a matter of life and death. 

The Ohio governor is calling for a permanent statewide ban on the sale of e-cigarette products. While his intentions are to help people, we believe this would have even worse repercussions as those using e-cigarettes will look to the black market for future purchases. Once this occurs, there will be no viable way to ensure products are safe which puts people at even more risk and continues to feed the black market. 

When vaping is properly regulated and meets all safety standards, the device is a much less harmful alternative to regular smoking and can even be an effective method to help people quit smoking. Researcher Dr. Caitlin Notley from UEA’s Norwich Medical School said: “E-Cigarettes are at least 95 percent less harmful than tobacco smoking, and they are now the most popular aid to quitting smoking in the UK.” 

Rather than running from the problem through placing a ban on a product that a large majority of the population use, we need to address the reason for this issue at its core.

This outbreak has occurred and continues to occur due to a number of unknowns. Unknown ingredients, unknown supply chains, unknown modifications, unknown origins and the list of unknowns goes on. 

The issue we are facing is an issue of transparency within the cannabis industry. There are limited ways to know entirely where our products are coming from, if they are from legal sources, who is dealing with them along the way and what is actually in the products. This places consumers in a position of blind trust, and unfortunately in 26 instances this trust has been broken and resulted in catastrophic circumstances. 

Consumers don’t and can’t know if they are using a legitimate product or a copy as counterfeiters have created knock-offs of THC vape brands that are legal in California. 

And to be clear, this isn’t just an issue the cannabis industry faces. This is an issue that many industries face and have faced in the past. 

The Takata airbag crisis is a prime example of this. 300 people were injured and 24 died as a result of trusting that the airbags would maintain their safety in the event of a car accident, however, were instead the very thing that put their safety at risk. 

This is why Parsl is so passionate about the transparency of supply chains and why we are dedicated to providing this for the cannabis industry to prevent catastrophic events like the vaping illness crisis. 

Our technology would:

  • Provide full details of a product’s ingredients
  • Provide who has been involved in the process
  • Detect when a product has been tampered with immediately 
  • Notify consumers individually and immediately if a product has been recalled
  • Be able to differentiate illegal cannabis from legal cannabis 

If this system was implemented the likelihood of an event like this would be far less likely and the source of the problem would be detected much earlier and easier. 

This is the perfect point for the cannabis industry to set a new standard for product tracking and introduce a new level of transparency when it comes to supply chains and product origins. We need to join forces to prevent detrimental outbreaks similar to the vaping crisis from occurring within the future.

Author: Alexander Dance
Alexander has worked in marketing and content creation for 6 years with a strong focus in the digital space. He has a strong grounding across all marketing channels with a specific focus in SEO, copywriting, video, conversion optimisation and design. He is passionate about evidence-based marketing.

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