Updates on Recent Respiratory Illnesses

The Truth About the U.S. “Vape-Related” Respiratory Illness Epidemic

Written by: Eden Sorrell, BN


The latest information from the FDA indicates that unregulated and illegally produced home brew THC products are the current focus on the investigation into the sudden string of respiratory illnesses sweeping across the United States.  Nothing "strange" has been found in any of the nicotine-based e-liquids tested by the FDA or CDC.  Until recently, no Canadian or person elsewhere in the world has been affected.  This points directly to a new product found only in the United States.  There has since been one respiratory illness reported in London Ontario, but Dr. Chris Mackie stated there was no direct evidence to suggest it was caused by conventional vaping, nor would he directly answer questions regarding the product(s) identified or whether THC cartridges were involved. 

The CDC and FDA have been working with law enforcement throughout the United States.  This has so far resulted in multiple subpoenas being issued to companies selling tocopherol acetate, and two arrests for illegally producing and selling the illicit tocopherol acetate tainted THC cartridges involved with the investigation. 

There have so far been at least 530 cases of respiratory illness reported in the investigation across the United States.  Most patients have reported a history of vaporizing THC products.  Many were using THC and nicotine-based products.  Only a small portion were reported as involving nicotine-based products only, but since THC is not legalized across the States, it’s unknown how many of these failed to report THC use simply due to fear of legal repercussions.  No single specific product has yet been involved in all cases.  The CDC states that “If you are an adult who used e-cigarettes containing nicotine to quit cigarette smoking, do not return to smoking cigarettes.”  They add that “Regardless of the ongoing investigation: anyone who uses an e-cigarette or vaping product should not buy these products (e.g., e-cigarette or vaping products with THC or CBD oils) off the street, and should not modify or add any substances to these products that are not intended by the manufacturer.”

Lipid pneumonia is the diagnosis in many of these cases and is caused by inhalation of lipids/fats.  Conventional nicotine e-liquids do not contain lipids.  Glycerin is not a lipid.  It is classified as a sugar alcohol.


Inconsistencies with press conference discussion with Dr. Chris Mackie of London Ont.

-Dr. Chris Mackie incorrectly stating that smoking is cheaper than vaping.  Average monthly cost for a pack a day smoker to vape is approximately $150 vs $600 to smoke.

-Dr. Mackie infers that vaping leads to smoking, despite a number of studies around the world stating the opposite; that there is no observed gateway effect from vaping to tobacco smoking.

-Dr. Mackie stated that while he knows very little about the long term health effects associated with vaping and that there’s no smoking gun pointing to electronic cigarettes, he is happy to blame electronic cigarettes for lung illness because “there is no other identifiable cause in this case.”  

-Dr. Mackie refused to directly answer questions regarding illegal THC cartridges that are the target of the current US investigation by the FDA and CDC.  He cited patient confidentiality but continued to demonize vaping throughout the press conference without any proof.

-Dr. Mackie took the time to cite the Hammond report and talk about a rise in teen vaping because of the “ever use” figure but fails to mention that less than 1% continue on to vape daily.


Helpful News Articles and Information

  • Story of one recent victim that has made a recovery and admits recent history of switching to illicit underground THC cartridges before becoming ill


  • Response to media hysteria surround so called “vape-related” respiratory illnesses by Dr. Konstantinos Farsalinos, one of the world’s leading researchers on e-cigarettes


  • Update from the CDC reminding adults that used vaping to quit smoking not to return to smoking and to refrain from purchasing illicit THC cartridges or modifying liquids in ways that are not intended by the manufacturers


  • Arrest in illegal THC vape cartridge operation in North Phoenix


  • Arrest in Wisconsin for illicit counterfeit THC cartridges


  • Michael Siegel, a Boston University community health sciences professor defends conventional vaping and condemns media overreaction to vaping-related illnesses


  • Explanation of the Tobacco Master Settlement Agreement in the United States which helps to understand the financial ties between States and the Tobacco industry today


  • Michigan scientist speaks out about proposed Statewide flavour ban and the importance of flavours


  • Public Health England’s response to US wave of respiratory illness cases and the safety of vaping vs smoking


  • VAEP (Vaping Advocacy and Education Project) is a wealth of researched information on vaping and is led by a registered nurse from Canada.


  • Tweet from Former FDA commissioner Dr. Scott Gottlieb pointing out that the evidence points towards illicit THC cartridges specifically in recent cases of respiratory illness in the States


What Can You Do?

Contact your local MP and MLA and correctly inform them about vaping and the current situation.

Go one step further and contact all MPs across Canada, regardless of party here https://www.ourcommons.ca/Parliamentarians/en/members.

Contact your provincial minister of health.

Contact Health Canada.

Report any untruthful or biased reporting to the respective ombudsman of that news outlet.

If you don’t like their response, report the media outlet to the National News Media Council at https://mediacouncil.ca/about-us-ethics-journalism/standards/

For reference, you can find the Canadian Association of Broadcasters Code of Ethics here: https://accountablejournalism.org/ethics-codes/Canada-CAB

Share well researched news articles to spread the word with brief highlights in your post text, but DON’T share untruthful sensationalizing headlines as this impacts FB algorithms that make the post more visible on other people’s feeds and spreads the fake news.  If you want to alert friends or vape community pages of poor journalism, please just use a screenshot.

Medical doctors will be involved with most related press conferences but the facts about vaping are not yet common knowledge.  If you feel a doctor has inadvertently given false/incorrect information or has abused a position of public influence in the media, you may rate them at ratemymds.com.  Be sure to educate them in your comments so they may learn from their mistakes.  If their profile is verified, they will see your comments.  Be kind, as they are busy professionals that don’t always have time to research topics like the science of vaping before a press conference and may simply have been given information to disseminate.  They will be placed in difficult situations and may simply be the messenger, so politely help them to become better informed.


Facts for Interest’s Sake

Fact: 45,000 Canadian deaths and $6.5 billion dollars in taxpayer costs annually due to smoking.

Fact: Vaping has never killed anyone or caused any severe adverse health effect (outside of rare allergic reactions to PG or VG) in the world despite being on the global market for over 10 years.

Fact: Vaping is the most effective harm reduction tool ever introduced to combat smoking.

Fact: Public Health England maintains that vaping is at least 95% safer than smoking cigarettes.


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