American Vape Epidemic: The need for federal intervention

As of September 17th, the Center For Disease Control (CDC) announced the number of vaping related injuries has reached 530 cases across 38 states and confirmed that a seventh person has died from their illness. Health officials are racing to determine the exact cause of the injuries but have been unable to pinpoint a common factor among test samples. The current official recommendation is to avoid all vaping products.

The recent epidemic of sudden and severe injuries has accentuated the need for standardized federal regulations for nicotine and cannabis vaping industries. The Tobacco Control Act (2016) gives the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulatory authority over electronic nicotine devices. The Center for Tobacco Products (CTP) monitors e-cigarette manufacturing, including the ingredients, production process, and marketing campaigns. Unfortunately, similar legislation does not exist for products containing THC, the primary ingredient in cannabis responsible for its medicinal and mind-altering properties.

Currently, 33 states permit medical marijuana use and 11 have legalized recreational use. A lack of federal oversight allows each state to define its own set of laws and regulations, making it impossible to create a consistent standard by which to compare and evaluate products. While many states have testing and reporting policies, there is no interstate collaboration, creating a confusing environment for suppliers and consumers.

Outside of registered dispensaries, illegal street products represent a more serious risk to the public. A complete absence of regulation makes it cheap and easy for suppliers to distribute substances that may contain harmful ingredients or toxins. Legal dispensary owners are pointing the finger at illegal street products as the root of the recent vaping illnesses.

Several countries have set standards for the vaping industry. France and the U.K. have led the charge in creating uniform policies to govern vape products. The International Organization for Standardization (ISO), a Swiss-based committee, is working with over 17 countries to develop standards for e-liquids and vaping equipment. The group promotes safety and quality requirements, standardized test methods, transparent ingredient reporting, and accurate labeling.

It clear that the Federal Government must act swiftly to protect the American public from the harmful effects of vaping. Marijuana advocates and medical professionals are calling for regulation that would eliminate black-market products and enforce rigid production, safety, and testing methods for legal distributors.