Illegal Vape Cartridges Responsible For Illnesses
Illicit cartridges spiked with synthetic marijuana, responsible for multiple outbreaks across the country

Nicotine vaping has come under intense media and regulatory scrutiny over the last several weeks. This comes amid growing news reports of illnesses misattributed to nicotine vaping and e-cigarettes despite evidence illegal marijuana oil cartridges are the cause of these outbreaks.

While a majority of these cases were found to be caused by using black market THC cartridges, a wave of unscrupulous entrepreneurs have taken advantage of the recent CBD craze by intentionally selling PEG400 spiked with various synthetic cannabinoids and opiates as CBD oil cartridges. These substances have been linked to several deaths and injuries in a multitude of outbreaks over the last several years.

Members of the vaping industry and community have been vocal in trying to clear the misinformation being spread by helping to distinguish between regulated nicotine vapor products and the black market marijuana cartridges responsible for these outbreaks. Despite this, news outlets and lawmakers continue to attack nicotine vaping and e-cigarettes, which to date have not been attributed to any outbreaks.

Public health experts are concerned that this lack of distinction and further propagation of misinformation may have actually exacerbated outbreaks in some instances, as people using black-market marijuana cartridges may have believed they weren’t at risk since only e-cigarettes were being blamed. Clearing the current misinformation surrounding vaping may be one of the more simple, yet most effective ways to save lives at the height of this epidemic.

Misinformation And Hysteria

A majority of outbreaks, initially reported to have been caused by e-cigarettes, were ultimately linked to illegal marijuana oil cartridges under brands such as Dank Vapes. Recently some of these outbreaks have been attributed to mislabeled CBD products spiked with synthetic cannabinoids and in one instance even the deadly synthetic opioid fentanyl.

Yolo is one of the main brands driving this new hysteria, a product sold by the California-based Mathco Health Corporation, that had been at the center of a major outbreak in Salt Lake City as well as several smaller outbreaks throughout the country. Another brand at the center of these outbreaks is known as Green Machine, an off-brand JUUL-compatible pod responsible for several injuries throughout the country and for putting one man in a coma.

To clarify, these were mislabeled products that were spiked with synthetic cannabinoids and opiates and were shown not actually to contain any CBD at all. CBD continues to offer an array of positive health benefits for users and has not been linked to any illnesses or outbreaks to date.

Nicotine and cannabis vaping needs to be regulated and regarded separately rather than be constantly grouped under the catch-all of “vaping”. Just as important, news outlets should responsibly report about the lack of risk behind using nicotine and CBD vapor products when purchased through reputable companies, as opposed to the dangers of buying black market products off the street.

Truth About Vaping

As the media and lawmakers continue to target nicotine vaping, the smoking epidemic kills an estimated 480,000 people annually in the United States despite no calls for its prohibition. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates there are approximately 38 million smokers in the United States, with 16 million currently living with a smoking-related condition.

Vaping has repeatedly proven itself as one of the greatest tools at our disposal in the war against the smoking epidemic. A study by the University of Louisville concluded vaping is the single most effective smoking cessation option, even more than going cold turkey or prescription alternatives such as Chantix.

In addition to vaping’s proven efficacy in smoking cessation, there is a growing body of research noting the reduced harm posed by vaping in comparison to smoking. Research by Public Health England and the Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center found that vaping was 95% safer and 93% safer than smoking, respectively.

Despite a remarkable track record of safety and efficacy, vaping continues to be demonized in the western mainstream press and by ignorant politicians, leading to general misinformation and misconceptions about vaping as a whole. Research by Action on Smoking and Health shows as little as 13% of adults believe vaping is safer than smoking, with a disappointing 26% of respondents believing vaping was just as bad, if not worse.


Anti-vaping activists have taken advantage of a climate of hysteria to lobby lawmakers to push for the complete prohibition of vaping, literally using the deaths of innocent people to advance their anti-vaping agenda despite evidence absolving nicotine vaping of any responsibility. If left unchecked, we could see major economic and public health ramifications from allowing the prohibition of vaping to occur.

As evidenced where vaping bans have already taken effect, the prohibition of vaping forces the shuttering of a $6 billion-a-year retail industry largely comprised of small mom and pop vape shops. Furthermore, restricting access to a proven reduced-harm smoking cessation tool may only force adult smokers back to tobacco, or toward black market products responsible for these health outbreaks.

Members of the vaping industry and community must remain civically engaged and vocal in their support of vaping as a whole. As the vaping industry continues to push back against these bans through litigation and public awareness campaigns, the vaping community must continue to be vocal both in real life and on social media about their support of vaping and how it has helped their lives.

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