Feds Work to Trace Vape Supplies

They’re checking postal facilities for global sources.

October 18, 2019

WASHINGTON, D.C.—The U.S. Food and Drug Administration and Customs officials are inspecting postal facilities in an effort to trace the supply chain of vaping products linked to lung injuries and deaths, UPI reports.

Ned Sharpless, FDA acting commissioner, said his agency is monitoring U.S. facilities where mail from more than 180 countries is checked by customs operators for illegal materials. Sharpless did not name the countries that might be sending illegal vape materials into the U.S.

On Friday, investigators from the FDA and CDC said they still believe that evidence for the illness so far points to illicit THC-containing vapes, and both agencies have recommended that people stop using THC vapes while the investigation is ongoing.

Additionally, as flu season approaches, the CDC released updated recommendations for doctors who may see symptoms from the lung illness that resemble influenza, said Anne Schuchat, principal deputy director, CDC. This comes as, investigators for the first time announced that several patients have been readmitted to hospitals with recurring symptoms after being released. It was unclear whether those patients had resumed vaping or had other reasons for a relapse. The hospitalized patients experienced symptoms of coughing, shortness of breath or chest pains. Some also suffered from nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, fever or weight loss, the CDC said.

The FDA's Forensic Chemistry Center in Cincinnati has received more than 700 devices, cartridges and packages from state health agencies and patients as part of the investigation, said Mitch Zeller, director of the FDA's Center for Tobacco Products. Not all products can be tested because some are empty or contain very little liquid, he said.

However, the FDA is testing for a THC cutting agent, vitamin E acetate, Zeller confirmed. Vitamin E acetate was found in 37 tested vape cartridges at levels between 23% to 88%, he said. In addition, the agency is checking for heavy metals, pesticides and other adulterants and poisons. The outbreak has been observed primarily in young men. About 80% of all reported patients are under age 35, and more than one-third of patients are younger than 20.

Meanwhile, Washington Gov. Jay Inslee has announced a 120-day ban of all flavored vaping products, including nicotine cigarettes and THC vapes. Similar bans of flavored vaping products have been challenged in court in Massachusetts and Michigan.