A Non-Alarmist Perspective on the Vape Crisis

Recently, there’s been an influx of reported fatalities that health officials in California, Indiana, Illinois, Oregon, and Minnesota have linked to vaping. Public officials, including President Trump, have called for additional regulations and an outright ban on electronic vapes. This is certainly a tragedy, and cause for concern, but let’s not overreact. We shouldn’t start banning products from the marketplace without a clear understanding of the cause. Necessity breeds solutions and they can be found in this situation if we pump the alarmist brakes and start focusing on the need for research to correctly identify and address the problem. 

This had been a major topic at the recent conferences I’ve attended. What I’ve been told is that this is unequivocally a supply chain issue. That it’s 100% not the marijuana or hemp-derived cannabinoid portion of the vape juice that’s causing the problem. Rather, vape pen manufacturers source cheaply produced cartridges from China and other Asian countries. Metal inside these cartridges can leach into the vape liquid. It then gets heated, vaporized, and inhaled.

In another industry, this wouldn’t generate the same level of panic.

Take Coca-Cola for example. If the beverage got packaged in a cheap aluminum can, the metals leached into the soda, and people started getting sick, would we react the same way – raising the alarm about the beverage while ignoring the can?

The issue is the packaging supply chain. I would bet that packaging standards for vape manufacturers already exist, but haven’t been highlighted in the industry, until now.

When crisis hits, public officials feel pressure to respond quickly.

People are quick to point the finger at cannabis oil in these scenarios, it reminds me of the yellow journalism that led cannabis prohibition in the 20th century. If we don’t take the necessary time to identify the issue, additional cannabis industry regulations could be seen as a quick fix. But that’s not going to solve this.

The vape crisis is a serious issue that needs to be investigated and thoroughly researched. But these things take time. It took the FDA nearly fifteen years to regulate nicotine-containing vape pens. We cannot make this about cannabis vapes because it is not about cannabis. This is about the quality of the delivery system and hardware. The more mindful we are of our response to this crisis, the more we encourage our policymakers to do their job, call for research, and discover the cause of the problem. And the more we resist falling in line with a mass media spreading alarmist rhetoric to increase viewership.