President Trump announced plans to prohibit sales of flavored e-cigarettes to White House reporters on September 11, following a meeting with advisers, Bloomberg reported. Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar said the Food and Drug Administration would issue guidance for taking these products — whose often sweet, candy-like flavors many suspect specifically target youth — off the market. Azar noted that this process could take months.
Trump labeled vaping a “problem,” one that harms kids in particular, according to Bloomberg. “We may very well have to do something very, very strong about it,” he said. His announcement comes on the heels of Michigan’s ban of flavored vapes on September 4.
There have been more than 450 reported potential cases of lung illness associated with vaping in 33 states and one US territory as of September 6, per the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Five deaths have been reported in California, Oregon, Illinois, Indiana, and Minnesota. Many of those hospitalized have been teens and young adults with no other health problems, the New York Times reports. Some land in intensive care or need to rely on a ventilator.
The CDC, FDA, and state and local health departments are still investigating the outbreak and have yet to pinpoint the cause. The CDC notes that no particular product or substance has been connected to all cases. (Although e-cigs emit lower levels of the toxic substances in conventional cigarettes, they contain heavy metals and other harmful ingredients not found in conventional cigarettes.) The FDA is testing samples collected from sickened patients for nicotine; diluting or “cutting” agents; and tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, the compound in cannabis that gets you high, among a panoply of other chemicals, the Washington Post reports.
The CDC does note that many patients report using vapes with liquids that contain cannabinoids like THC. New York state and FDA labs also shared they had found a substance called vitamin E acetate in samples of cannabis vape products from patients, per the Washington Post.
In the end, we still haven't pinpointed exactly what's making people sick, since it's black market vapes — those not made by reputable brands, which are less likely to have responsible manufacturing practices — that seem to be the most dangerous.