MOREHEAD CITY — While health officials continue to issue warnings about the dangers of vaping, those who use and sell e-cigarettes say products sold legally are safe.
County Health Department Director Stephanie Cannon said the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is encouraging people to avoid vaping products because of the high number of lung injuries associated with them.
“The CDC recommends individuals not use e-cigarette or vaping products containing THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) and continues to recommend individuals consider refraining from using e-cigarette or vaping products containing nicotine,” she said during the County Consolidated Human Services Board meeting Monday in the County Health Department conference room.
Those who sell and use the products, however, say the industry has been regulated since 2016 and the majority of cases involving lung injuries relate to black market products that contain THC and other harmful chemicals.
“The research I’ve seen has involved people hurt by black market e-cigarettes that contained illegal THC cartridges and they’re cut with other chemicals,” Matthew Warnick, manager of High Life Smoke Shop in Morehead City, said. “We have been heavily regulated since 2016 and what is sold legally doesn’t have the chemicals that are harmful.”
As health officials continue to sound the alarm about the effects of vaping, Ms. Cannon reported Monday that as of Oct. 11, there have been nearly 1,300 lung injury cases associated with the use of e-cigarettes products. Injuries have been reported in 49 states, Washington, D.C. and one U.S. territory. Thirty-one deaths have been reported.
There have been 51 cases identified in North Carolina involving individuals ranging in age from 13 to 72. None have been reported in Carteret County, according to Ms. Cannon.
“Most patients identified in North Carolina have been hospitalized with many requiring respiratory support,” Ms. Cannon said.
She added the majority of cases have involved individuals vaping THC, but nicotine flavored products containing cannabinoid, or CBD, have also been reported.
Ms. Cannon said to date no single product or substance has been linked to all of the lung injury cases in North Carolina or the nation.
According to the CDC, the liquid used in e-cigarettes can contain nicotine, THC or CBD, as well as other substances and additives. THC is the psychoactive, mind-altering compound of marijuana.
In a follow-up email regarding the issue, Ms. Cannon said she is especially worried about the effects of vaping on young people.
“What concerns me most is the impact it is having on youth. Some of the vaping pods are marketed to be ‘fruity’ and taste like kid cereals (e.g. Cinnamon Toast Crunch) .... of course, to a child, that sounds like something fun to do without thinking what they may be inhaling,” she said. “There certainly needs to be more regulation around these products and not having these products marketed to youth.”
Mr. Warnick said while his shop does sell multiple flavors, the law doesn’t allow the sale of e-cigarettes to those under 18.
“The flavors are going to take away the taste of cigarettes, and for people who use e-cigarettes to quit smoking cigarettes, that’s the whole point,” he said. “We do offer a variety of flavors, and it’s not only kids who like flavors like Froot Loops or melon. We don’t sell to kids under 18 and we verify their age. So if kids are getting them, they need to be looking at the adults who buy them and give them to kids.”
According to The Associated Press, several e-cigarette companies aren’t selling their products in the state while litigation against them is pending.
Attorney General Josh Stein announced in August he was suing eight more vaping companies under the state’s unfair and deceptive trade laws. Mr. Stein accuses them of aggressively marketing their products to young people and failing to use proper age verification, and he wants their sales to end.
Mr. Stein said Oct. 7 that VapeCo. Distribution has agreed not to sell or market vapor products in the state. His office says there are preliminary injunctions or temporary restraining orders stopping sales by Electronic Tobacconist, Electric Lotus, Direct eLiquid and Beard Vape while the lawsuits continue.
Mr. Stein sued e-cigarette industry leader Juul in May.
For more information on e-cigarettes and vaping, go to cdc.gov/tobacco/basic_information/e-cigarettes/Quick-Facts-on-the-Risks-of-E-cigarettes-for-Kids-Teens-and-Young-Adults.html.
The Associated Press contributed to this story.
Contact Cheryl Burke at 252-726-7081, ext. 255; email Cheryl@thenewstimes.com; or follow on Twitter @cherylccnt.