Cannabis Consumers Shouldn't Minimize Vape-Associated Deaths

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CelebStoner has reported each and every death associated with the vape epidemic sweeping the nation. As of now, 44 people have died in 24 states since August of some sort of lung or pulmonary-related illness due to vaping either nicotine via e-cigs or catridges filled with cannabis and who knows what else or some combination of both.

The causes of death range from the use of flavored additives and diluents in the oils that when heated irritate the lungs and can lead to pneumonia and possibly death. A fungicide, myclobutanil, when heated, turns into hydrogen cyanide. The Mayo Clinic identified "direct toxicity or tissue damage from noxious chemical fumes" in vape devices as another cause.

More than 1,000 cases have been reported across the U.S. This is nothing to make light of or minimize. However, each time I post another death or several deaths, commenters on Facebook wonder what's the big deal.

• "3,287 Americans die every day due to traffic accidents," the commenter erroneously wrote. (The person was corrected that the total is 37,461 and 101 a day.")

• The same person added: "This just in: lawnmowers killed 75 people in 2018."

• Another wrote: "What about peanut butter that sends thousands of kids to hospitals every year?"

• Another asked: "What about real drugs that are wiping out more humans than the wars?"

• Another pointed out: "How many deaths related to sugar per day?"

• And another: "What about all the people killed with guns in mass shootings?"

These are all legitmate questions, but they're missing the point. Of the 44 deaths so far, at least two have been traced to legal stores in Oregon. The others are presumably bootlegs.

To me, one death connected to the use of any cannabis product is too many. For years, advocates have been able to say that marijuana doesn't kill anyone. Well, now it has, even if it isn't the THC or other cannaboinoids doing the damage. When you use a cannabis product you expect it to be safe. No more.

And don't think the vape crisis won't be used by prohibitionists to further keep cannabis illegal.

One death connected to the use of any cannabis product is too many. When you use a cannabis product you expect it to be safe. No more.

Before vape pens became all the rage, we didn't have this problem. People rolled joints and smoked from pipes and bongs. The worst that could physically happen to you was a sore throat.

Another problem with vaping is the waste. Joints and pipes don't have much of a carbon footprint. They just produce ash. Vape cartridges are disposable and many pens, batteries included, are thrown away when the oil is gone.

I know some will say, but what about the tar and carbon monoxide that comes from lighting joints and pipes? Yes, those are concerns, but they don't cause cancer in cannabis smokers.

Vapes are convenient and discrete, that's for sure. But look how we're paying for that convenience now?

Also, for me, puffing on a vape pen provides a low-level buzz at best. Yes, it may contain 70% THC, but after the oil is cut with toxic diluents like glycol or vitamin E acetate, you're left with a weak product. It might even be fair to call the vape-oil industry a scam.

I propose that people go back to joints and pipes and put their vape pens away. The exception would be for medical patients who can't smoke. Let them buy well-tested and safe products in dispensaries.

However, I don't support bans for the obvious reason that it will drive people to the black market that's already at the root of the problem.

It's up to people to realize that vaping is not - at least at this point - a safe or conscientious way to consume cannabis.

Until the industry gets a handle on the problem, stick to flower, edibles and tinctures.

Steve Bloom

Steve Bloom

Publisher of, former editor of High Times and Freedom Leaf and co-author of Pot Culture and Reefer Movie Madness.