Following an outbreak of a mysterious vaping illness that has plagued the country, officials have determined some of the brands directly linked to the lung issues caused by the black market vape cartridges.
According to the new report from the CDC, the brand Dank Vapes was used by 56 percent of the hospitalized patients, with TKO (15%), Smart Cart (13%), and Rove (12%) rounding out the group.
“It’s not likely that a single brand is responsible for this outbreak,” Brian King, a senior CDC official on the investigation told the AP.
While a few are actual brands, Dank Vapes isn’t a licensed company. Instead, it’s simply empty packaging illicit sellers can buy from China and fill their oils in.
The other companies are victims of a similar ploy. Sellers can also purchase fake TKO, Smart Cart, and Rove packaging to make their homemade oil look similarly legitimate.
The co-founder of TKO Products, Bill Loucks, says that his company only sells to licensed dispensaries in California. Still, he receives emails about his product in various other states. TKO, like the other aforementioned companies, has had to scramble to protect its brand by updating its packaging design.
“If you bought them outside of California … you are the proud owner of fakes,” Loucks said to the Associated Press in an email.
The Worst Might Be Behind Us
According to the CDC report, the worst of the mysterious outbreak may be behind us. Per the data, there has been a decline in hospitalizations dating back to mid- September.
“Since September 15, there has been a steady decline in hospitalized EVALI patients reported weekly to CDC,” the report says. “Among all hospitalized EVALI patients reported weekly to CDC by states since November 5, 2019, the percentage of recent EVALI cases declined from 58% reported November 12 to 30% reported December 3.”
Still, there are numerous cases being reported to this day, with another 176 vaping-related lung illnesses this past November alone. Overall, there has been a total of 2,291 reported this year amongst all states. 25 of said U.S. states have reported at least a death, with a total of 48 casualties nationwide.
Some of these deaths have led to bans of flavored e-cigarette nicotine cartridges. New York City just became the first major city to ban flavored e-cigarette products, while Michigan became the first state to do so back in September when the epidemic was still at its height.
Still, research has shown most of the illnesses and deaths have been courtesy of black market THC cartridges, not flavored e-cigarettes. The CDC reported that a whopping 80% of cases were caused from vaping THC, while just 13% of the reported issues were from e-cigarettes.
“Overall, 80% of hospitalized EVALI patients reported using tetrahydrocannabinol (THC)-containing e-cigarette, or vaping, products,” the CDC stated.
Lab studies have shown that most of the tainted cartridges contained traces of Vitamin E acetate oil, amongst other pesticides. Legally sold cartridges, on the other hand, tested clean, prompting warnings to only purchase the products from licensed dispensaries.
But the CDC wants you to err on the side of caution and stay away from vape products altogether.
“CDC recommends that persons not use e-cigarette, or vaping, products that contain THC,” the report noted.