Utah Health Dept. says THC vaping likely cause of lung illnesses; statement made same day judge eases restrictions on sale of flavored e-cigarettes

Photo Courtesy: Utah Department of Health

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah, Oct. 29. 2019 (Gephardt Daily) — The Utah Department of Health has released a statement saying vaping products containing THC are the likely cause of vaping-related lung injuries being seen in Utah and across the U.S.

“Nearly everyone who has become sick in Utah has reported vaping THC cartridges prior to becoming ill,” the UDOH reported Monday. “The Utah Department of Health recommends you immediately stop vaping THC cartridges while we continue to investigate this outbreak.”

The statement came on the very same day 3rd District Court Judge Keith Kelly struck down part of UDOH’s previously issued emergency order restricting the sale of flavored e-cigarettes to Utah’s licensed tobacco-specialty shops.

The temporary restraining order was prompted by a lawsuit filed against UDOH by seven Utah vaping companies that claim the health department’s order unfairly targeted their businesses and could lead to their financial ruin.

The plaintiffs’ suit maintained “UDOH has no scientific evidence that vaping flavored electronic cigarette products is the cause of the recent illnesses that underpins the reason for the Emergency Rule.

“The effect of the Emergency Rule is that Plaintiffs will be deprived of their vested property interests in and to their general tobacco retailer licenses,” the lawsuit said.

Judge Kelly agreed with the plaintiffs, first noting that nowhere in the UDOH analysis did the word “flavor” appear.

“The UDOH Investigation Report does not link the wave of recent lung illnesses to flavored vape products, but, instead, links the lung ailments to these persons’ use of black market THC cartridges.”

Kelly also challenged UDOH’s notion that banning non-specialty tobacco retailers from selling flavored e-cigarettes would blunt young people’s exposure to illicit THC vaping. He said the directive lacked the necessary urgency to bypass the normal 120 day waiting period before such orders take effect.

Kelly’s ruling allows general tobacco retail vendors, including grocery and convenience stores, to resume the sale of flavored e-cigarettes, until the tenets of UDOH’s order can be vetted. General tobacco retailers had been prohibited from selling flavored e-cigs since Oct. 21.

Monday’s court decision upholds part of USDOH’s emergency order, including the posting of signs at all vaping outlets warning consumers about the potential dangers of e-cigarette use.

The Utah State Department of Health issued a statement Monday expressing disappointment in Kelly’s decision.

“The plaintiffs who brought this suit represent a small minority of tobacco businesses,” the statement said. “Most general tobacco retailers and specialty tobacco shops are already in compliance with the emergency rule and we encourage them to remain so.”

New figures released Monday by USDOH show 109 confirmed cases of EVALI, E-cigarette or Vaping Product-use Associated Lung Injury. One of those cases ended with the patient’s death.

According to USDOH tracking, 89% of patients self-reported vaping THC cartridges and 60% self-reported vaping nicotine prior to their illnesses. The USDOH says many of those stricken reported vaping both nicotine and THC.

The findings in Utah mirror those of both the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Both show a strong connection between EVALI and the use of black market THC vaping devices.

As of Friday, 1,299 people in 49 states, Washington, D.C. and the U.S. Virgin Islands have been stricken with the potentially lethal lung ailment, with 34 deaths reported thus far.

Eighty-five percent of those patients say they vaped THC, while 10% said they vaped only tobacco products.

While the Utah Department of Health is discouraging all forms of vaping, the organization is scrutinizing the use of THC vaping to treat other medical conditions.

If medical cannabis patients choose to continue vaping THC to treat their medical conditions, the UDOH says they should consider the following guidelines:

  • Only purchase THC vape cartridges from reputable, licensed dispensaries.
  • Do not modify or add any substances to the cartridges.
  • Know the symptoms of vaping-related lung injuries and seek immediate medical care if you experience any of them.


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