Saturday, August 31, 2019

Teen Vaping Panic!

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It's Summer.  Ratings are dragging & the media needs something to boost its viewership, so here comes another perfectly-timed "crisis" threatening America's youth.  This time it's vaping that's causing teens to keel over.  While this is a very serious & real phenomenon, the stories reporting it contain nothing approaching responsible journalism.  Headlines scream "Vaping Kills 1; Maims Hundreds" while the finer print says that vaping hasn't even been 100% identified as the actual cause of these kids' lung problems (though it's pretty likely in my opinion).  

More troubling, nobody has bothered to identify what actual ingredient or ingredients are causing these reactions.  Vaping is not a new phenomenon--people, including teens--have been doing it for at least a decade now with no acute problems of this scale or severity.  There have always been questions about the possible long-term effects of inhaling certain carrier ingredients like vegetable glycerine or medium-chain triglycerides, but whatever's sickening these people is something far worse.  This is an acute, life-threatening reaction...not a chronic/long-term issue.  Yet we can't seem to get an answer as to what's causing it.  Just "vaping".  Vaping what, exactly?  Some of the victims were vaping black-market THC products that are counterfeit & made to look like those sold in dispensaries.  Some were vaping nicotine products.  Others CBD-only preparations.  

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Blowing smoke...

Those 3 industries--black market THC, nicotine products like Juul pods & CBD supplements--are not even in the same legal category or subject to the same regulations, so how the hell can you link these illnesses to such a wide variety of different products?  Something's not adding up.  It's almost as if they want to scare ALL vape users away from the practice.  It conjures memories of the Great Kratom Salmonella Scare of 2018, except this time people are actually very sick & dying.  The question is, why?  And who is responsible?  Is this a deliberate attempt to poison the vaping industry by adding known toxins to a variety of products like CBD & nicotine, perhaps by some 3-letter agency?  Probably not, because that's crazy talk.  But something stinks.  

The more likely scenario is that the media is jumping the gun by linking "vaping"--an overly broad term describing a number of different activities--to an outbreak of unknown origin before having all the facts.  The outbreak itself is all too real but the explanation behind it is lacking to say the least.  Until someone can tell us what adulterant or ingredient is at fault, how are we to alter our behavior & protect ourselves?  That's just it:  they want us to give up vaping in all forms by deliberately leaving out the important details.  Ain't happenin' guys.  

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Fake, fake, fake.

To help protect yourself against this very real & scary health problem, here are a few tips:

-  Never, ever buy black market THC vape products.  Counterfeiters make them look just like the real thing but they can contain literally anything from pesticides to dangerous carrier oils to lead heating elements in the vape itself, none of which will be obvious to the naked eye.  

-  When buying CBD vape products, only buy from vendors who publish 3rd party lab reports that test for contaminants other than THC (the industry minimum).  That includes pesticides, fungi/bacteria/other pathogens, heavy metals & residual solvents.  All of these have been found in various hemp-derived CBD brands.  

-  If you're a teen or young adult & don't vape nicotine products already, don't start.  There are countless reasons why you shouldn't pick up the habit.  Here are a few.

-  If your vape cartridge contains colored oil--blue, purple, green, black--it is fake.  Real oil will have an incredibly thick viscosity & will be colored a light almond to dark amber tone.  Food coloring will not mix with actual vape oil so this is a huge red flag that it's fake.  Also: the vape oil shouldn't be thin like water.  The bubble should rise almost imperceptibly slowly when the pen is turned upside down.  

-  If you're an e-cig user who vapes nicotine, be on the lookout for counterfeit cartridges as well.  China produces knockoffs that look just like the real thing & can be dangerous.  The FDA ruled that companies like Juul can only sell their sweet-flavored products on websites, so stores that are still selling them are more likely to have counterfeits.  To reduce your risk of getting one of these fakes, avoid buying flavored (Mango, Fruit & Creme, etc) Juul pods in brick-and-mortar stores.  If your pod tastes bad, throw it out immediately.  

-  Learn to identify real CCell batteries & make sure your THC vape pen uses them if it's a certain brand (list in the next link).  Popular brands like Cereal Carts & Dank Vapes use this type of battery & it's often (poorly) counterfeited in fake pens like those seen here.  

...none of these tips are foolproof but they can be helpful.  

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