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Unpacking the Mysterious “Lung Disease” Situation

Unpacking the Mysterious “Lung Disease” Situation

  • Joe Picarella


As a member of the vape community, chances are good that you’ve at least heard something over the past month about these mysterious “lung disease” outbreaks that have been occurring around the United States, all of which have been attributed to “vaping”.


I am also guessing that you know how ridiculous it is for anyone, especially medical professionals, to make claims that these cases are somehow being caused by run-of-the-mill, commercially made nicotine e-liquid.


However, we thought it would be a good idea to really dive into this topic and break down exactly what we know to help you get some clarity on the subject as it is easy to understand how some people may be confused by the avalanche of information (and misinformation) that is being spread regarding these cases.



What We Know…


Let’s start with the facts.


The earliest reports of lung issues that were linked to vaping seem to have hit the wire around the beginning of August 2019 when the story broke of eight teens in Wisconsin who were hospitalized with severe lung issues. All of the teens had reported that they were vaping prior to having issues with their lungs.


According to the CDC, since then there have been similar cases reported in 21 other states, bringing the total number of cases to 193 in 22 states across the country.


In every case, the people affected have all reported vaping prior to falling ill, however, very few of the stories specify exactly what liquid was being vaped, and the ones that do only seem to mention one specific type of product; THC cartridges that were purchased from private sellers for cheap.


The proverbial powder keg blew wide open when the first death associated with these lung illnesses was reported in Illinois on August 23rd. At that point, every single major media outlet in the country picked up the story and it spread (and continues to spread) like an uncontained wildfire.



What We Don’t Know…


Quite frankly, what we don’t know is the one thing we all should have been told on day one, which is exactly what product or products were being used by each of these people leading up to their sudden illnesses. Instead, we have been given vague information regarding the products involved at best, and broad accusations against “vaping” at worst.



The Aftermath…


In the weeks since the first reports came out of Wisconsin, it seems as though every major media outlet has decided to pick up the story, but it appears that none have been willing to actually investigate the details.


As a result, what we have been hit with is a barrage of reports all of which seem to conclusively blame “vaping” for the outbreaks, despite no actual organization involved in the investigation of these cases willing to name a definitive culprit.


Furthermore, very few of these reports make the distinction clear between products containing THC and products containing nicotine, and even fewer make the distinction clear between commercially produced THC vape products and street-bought knock offs.


Perhaps the most dangerous result of these cases has been the medical professionals who have gone on record to denounce vaping as a safer alternative to tobacco and warn people against it, despite the complete lack of any evidence that nicotine vape was involved in any way.


Some have even decided to kick the crazy up a notch and announce that they believe vaping will soon be determined to be worse for you than smoking.


Why We All Need to Stay Calm…


I get it. With the news of these cases literally being pumped into our brains all day, every day from every single media source on the planet, it can be easy to find ourselves wondering if there is any validity to the claims that vaping is a lot more dangerous than we previously thought.


But, once you apply a little perspective, you quickly realize that these claims hold no water.


For starters, according to Reuters, a study done in 2018 found that roughly 10.8 million Americans vape. So, even if every single one of these 193 cases were undeniably shown to have been caused from nicotine vape products, that would still only represent approximately 0.0018% of all vape users in the country. Put another way, as of right now, only two-tenths of one percent of all American vape users have been affected by this lung condition.


For comparison, according to the CDC there are currently 34.3 million smokers in the US, and of those, there are 16 million who are living with a disease caused by smoking, which equals a whopping 46.6% of all American smokers.


In addition, it is important to remember that the United States is not the only place where vaping exists (I know, it is difficult for us Americans to grasp that there’s a lot more to the world than our country). As Steve Rehberger of Legion Vapes so politely points out in his outstanding video on the topic, America is the only place where these cases have sprung up. This can hardly be explained if standard nicotine e-liquid is to blame as surely these cases would be a global occurrence if this were true.

The relatively small footprint of these cases does make sense, however, if the cause is due to something that isn’t as widely available as commercially made e-liquids, like say, a bad batch of counterfeit pods.


And finally, while it may only be anecdotal, I have vaped every single day since March 22nd, 2017 and I feel fine. In fact, I feel way better than I did during the 20 years before that when I smoked a pack and a half of cigarettes a day. If vaping is destroying my lungs, it sure is doing a bad job of it.


The Bottom Line…


I don’t doubt for a second that each of the people who have come down with this affliction were, in fact, vaping something that caused damage to their lungs. I also believe that many of them probably did use nicotine vape products at least semi-regularly.


But, the idea that standard nicotine e-liquid played any part in any of these cases is absurd, despite what most media outlets and many medical professionals would like us all to believe.


If all you ever vape is e-liquid that consists of VG, PG, artificial flavoring, and nicotine, I am quite confident that you do not need to be concerned with meeting the same fate as these unfortunate folks.


Now, if you are vaping questionable pods that you bought on a street corner for considerably less than what you’d get them for at your local dispensary, you may want to take a second and think about it before you take another pull.