Editorial: Response to vaping-related illnesses lacks sense

Imagine for a moment.

(This shouldn’t be hard, because it actually happened a couple of years ago.)

The United States suffers an outbreak of salmonella. It’s tied to spinach. Fresh spinach is pulled from all grocery store shelves.

But if the powers that be, the bureaucrats and politicians, act the way they’ve been acting recently, it’s a much different picture.

We’d hear this announcement from the Centers for Disease Control: “We have discovered a connection between spinach and a salmonella outbreak! Many of those infected also ate lettuce, and some said they didn’t eat spinach at all. We don’t know the exact cause in 100 percent of the cases, therefore, we are recalling all lettuce and highly recommend that everyone stop eating all vegetables immediately.”

The reasoning looks a lot like this: We look out the window. The sun is shining, and we say, “Hey, family, break out the umbrellas. Looks like rain.”

That’s how the CDC, bureaucrats and politicians across the United States are responding to the small number of so-called vaping-related lung injury cases that have appeared in the past couple of months. Some 29 are dead, and doctors have identified more than 1,000 cases nationwide.

It wasn’t long before more than 80 percent of the cases were tied directly to cartridges used in vaping THC. Not all of them have the same ingredients, but in various samples, more than 50 percent contain vitamin E acetate, an oil.

The CDC has acknowledged this, near the end of its public statements, and news stories across the country followed suit. Though mentioning the presence of this oil, the CDC claimed not to know the cause of the health problems people were suffering. The agency noted that many victims had also vaped nicotine, that some claimed not to have vaped THC at all. Based on that damning evidence, the CDC, then urged everyone to quit vaping.

Michigan, New York, Rhode Island, Oregon, Washington and a growing number of tates have since banned flavored vaping liquids, including nicotine liquids. Massachusetts banned everything. All have done this under executive orders, sidestepping all legislative processes.

This is despite the fact that not a single case is tied to nicotine vaping. The only evidence is the word of a few people who, very likely, vaped a product that was illegal in their states and don’t want to admit it. It didn’t take long for the politicians and bureaucrats to take non sequitur actions and go after nicotine vaping, which has yet to kill anyone and is saving the lives of our loved ones by helping them quit smoking at rates greater than any other method of quitting.

It is virtually insane.

But Oregon is even crazier.

The Oregon Health Authority recommended a six-month ban on all vaping products, and we expect Gov. Kate Brown, who asked the OHA for a recommendation, to blindly follow along. In Oregon, all cases, including the two deaths, involved THC vaping, not nicotine.

THC vaping products are regulated by the Oregon Liquor Control Commission.

Nicotine vaping is barely regulated.

The regulated THC vaping products sold through licensed marijuana retailers have killed two people in Oregon.

Nicotine vaping has not.

The THC cartridges at issue in Oregon and the black market cartridges in other states use different substances to cut the THC. The problem with it is well known among nicotine vaping liquid manufacturers and “do-it-yourselfers.” Don’t use oils to flavor the e-liquid.

It’s the first thing a new DIYer finds as he or she starts learning about vaping materials. Oils can cause lipoid pneumonia. Nicotine liquid makers generally don’t use oils. It doesn’t mean they can’t or won’t, but they haven’t, despite the lack of regulation.

The THC market just started using the vitamin E acetate within the past year. It’s new. That’s why these injuries are just now appearing after more than a decade of nicotine vaping and even after years of safe THC vaping.

Oil in THC cartridges is the problem.

Additional information based on a study of biopsies in 17 cases by the Mayo Clinic showed injuries consistent with chemical burns.

Whether oils or other chemicals are causing the injuries, it’s clear that it’s from ingredients new to the THC vaping industry, black market and legitimate in Oregon.

Did the state close those shops selling the bad cartridges? Or require them to take vaping products off the shelf? Apparently not.

Instead, state health officer Dean Sidelinger stated in a press conference before Lebanon Local went to press: “No level of vaping is safe. With these acute respiratory injuries and deaths, we do urge all individuals to stop vaping, whether that’s nicotine-based products, cannabis products or other products.””

Apparently, the OHA’s biggest concern is people’s feelings.

From a story in Willamette Week: “Jonathan Modie, spokesman for the OHA, says just because the person bought products from these two stores doesn’t mean it was necessarily the stores’ products that killed the person.

“‘It doesn’t necessarily mean the individual got sick from products that they had purchased at these dispensaries, we just know that the individual shopped at a couple of dispensaries prior to getting ill,’ says Modie. ‘We’re still waiting to get samples of the products and then we send that off for testing.’

“’When WW asked if it wouldn’t be better to shut down a store that potentially sold a lethal product to a customer, Modie replied, ‘How do you think the dispensary operator would feel if it turned out that the product wasn’t theirs? We wouldn’t want to name or point to a specific dispensary before we have all of the information that says unequivocally that that was the dispensary where the product was sold that made the individual sick.’”

Meanwhile, the OHA is now ready to shut everyone down, including the unrelated nicotine vaping market. It’s worried about the feelings of marijuana retailers, yet cares nothing about reformed smokers using a product that has been deemed 95 percent safer by the United Kingdom’s Royal College of Physicians.

Gov. Kate Brown and the OHA will end nicotine vaping shops and hundreds, if not thousands, of jobs with this ban. It will prohibit the sale of life-saving technology and contribute to smoking-related deaths instead, which number 480,000 per year in the United States, according to the CDC. The ban will do nothing, one way or the other, to stop vaping-related lung injury.

The only thing that can stop lung injury is to ban the tainted products through the licensed retailers in our state.

The truth is, our government apparently just hates vaping. That could be for a variety of reasons.

It would be very petty, but they may just hate smoking so much that they also hate vaping because it’s similar to, though vastly safer than smoking. It’s also enjoyable and effective to smokers trying to quit, while the government’s preferred solutions, the Big Pharma gum, patches and drugs, aren’t nearly as interesting to smokers.

Maybe our leaders hate vaping because of the dent it puts in their budgets. States and nonprofit anti-smoking outfits receive massive tax revenues and Master Tobacco Settlement funds, based on the sale of cigarettes. These government officials may actually want everyone to keep smoking. They ignore the fact that half a million people per year die of tobacco-related causes, compared to … 29?

And one of the big arguments we keep hearing is how dangerous vaping is for teens, who might get addicted to nicotine. What was happening a decade ago, before vaping became popular? Speaking anecdotally, compared to then, how many teens do we see smoking tobacco today? And which is more dangerous?

This response to “vaping-related lung injury” is so illogical, these kinds of explanations are the only ones that make any sense.

The outbreak of lung injury is their excuse to go after it. It lays bare exactly how unreasoned and unhinged our political class has become. There’s nothing reasonable about this. The excuse to ban is the thinnest of any excuse we’ve ever heard to justify any policy decision, and we, like you, have heard plenty of doozies. The thinking is so pathetic, these politicians and bureaucrats should be embarrassed.

As anti-smoking activist and Boston University Professor Dr. Michael Siegel, who has 32 years experience in the field of tobacco control, said earlier this month: “Rather than pointing the finger at every retail store and vape shape in the state that is selling water-based e-liquids, the Oregon Health Authority should first be pointing the finger at itself and apologizing to the victims’ families for not properly regulating the state’s marijuana dispensaries and allowing them to sell oil-laden THC liquids that have no business being sold anywhere.”