Kiwi experts weigh in on US vaping deaths, suggesting caution - but not concern

A group of New Zealand scientists and academics have shared their views on whether vaping is safe after a string of deaths related to vaping in the US.

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has now confirmed a total of 12 deaths, with all of the patients reportedly using e-cigarettes prior to their deaths.

Of those, three quarters said they had used a vape containing THC (cannabis) oil.

The CDC is investigating, and has recommended people steer clear of vaping products containing THC, and no one substance has yet been identified in all of the tested samples.

However, Vitamin E acetate has been found in many of the samples containing THC, which is toxic, and the substance is strongly implicated in the deaths.

New Zealan'd Science Media Centre asked a range of experts for their views on whether Kiwis should be concerned about the deaths.

Your playlist will load after this ad

Battle lines are being drawn as the Government prepares to introduce regulations. Source: 1 NEWS

Dr Penny Truman, Massey University School of Health Sciences

"New Zealand vapers using nicotine (or the nicotine-free equivalent) should not be concerned by the problems in the USA," Dr Truman said.

"People have been vaping as a smoking cessation tool with no obvious problems for around 10 years now all around the world.

"In contrast, the lung damage that is appearing in the USA develops over a very short time-frame, is localised as to where it is happening and is almost certainly related to vaping cannabis.

"Thus it is likely to be linked to a supplier, or to a recent development in how the vape solutions are made up by a group of suppliers, that has had tragic consequences.

"The strongest contender to be the cause is the addition of vitamin E acetate as a carrier oil to the cannabis vaping oil.

"Until we know more, it would be sensible for anyone wanting to vape cannabis (illegal in New Zealand, at present) not to use liquid vape devices."

Your playlist will load after this ad

AUT senior marketing lecturer Dr Sommer Kapitan gives her thoughts. Source: Seven Sharp

Dr Natalie Walker, NIHI Associate Professor in Public Health, University of Auckland Faculty of Medical and Health Sciences

"The US outbreak of severe, acute respiratory failure (including deaths) related to vaping is certainly of concern.

"An investigation into the cause of these events is on-going so nothing is as yet certain.

"Whilst the investigation is underway, government agencies in the US are recommending consumers avoid buying vaping products from the black-market, and to refrain from vaping THC oil or 'modifying/adding any substances to products purchased in stores'.

"We need to put these events into context. First, e-cigarettes have been around for more than a decade, with no indications of harm.

"Second, the recent US events appear to be acute, that is they don’t appear to be related to long-term vaping.

"Finally, in the USA, 480,000 people die each year from smoking-related diseases (that’s 1,300 deaths every day) – it's a pity these deaths don’t also make the world news.

"Should NZ vapers be concerned about the serious vaping events in the US? At this stage there is no evidence of the issue occurring in New Zealand, but I would suggest vapers make sure they buy their vaping products from reputable retailers and should not vape THC oil."

Your playlist will load after this ad

US President Donald Trump is moving to ban flavoured e-cigarettes over concerns they’re getting people hooked. Source: 1 NEWS

Professor Julian Crane of University of Otago Wellington, Wellington Asthma Research Group Director

"It is important only to use standard e-cigarettes and their specific solutions without adding anything to them.

"In general it is much better not to use flavourings if possible.

"Some 6000 are now used in e-cigarettes and while most pass food standards none have ever been tested on the lung – this is a tragedy waiting to happen – and it looks like it has.

"The long-term effects will take a long time to appear and hopefully the acute lung problems will be clarified and the offending agents removed."