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HEALTH officials have hit back over claims vaping is responsible for an outbreak of respiratory disease in the US and have reassured the public that regulated products continue to be safe to use.

Coming from the experts across the Pond in the USA, where swooping generalisations have continued to vilify the vaping industry, mainly from the political parties, the experts now have backed up the modus that regulated products, as with any consumable product industry, are in fact safe to use.

Experts stepped in to calm the public’s worries after news outlets reported there have been a number of deaths and many more cases cases of a severe respiratory illness, thought to be linked to vaping, across 33 states.

The affected people were reportedly mostly young people showing symptoms that included shortness of breath, coughing, fever and vomiting.

Of those hospitalized, many admitted to vaping a variety of substances including marijuana-based products and do-it-yourself brews, not regulated products. Therein lies the main issue, not one that pertains to the ‘regulated’industry.

Investigators have yet to establish the exact cause, but samples taken from patients showed high levels of vitamin E acetate, used as a thickening agent on the black market, which is commonly used to vape cannabis products. Here in the UK, acetate has been removed from all licensed products for over 3 years, but there is no accounting for the black, and ‘home brewed’ markets.

While some US states, which have legalized recreational marijuana for adult-only and medicinal use etc do oversee the products, the central FDA doesn’t regulate it, which has led to a flooding of black market products.

Officials have also warned those who own illicit vape cartridges to throw them away immediately.

Health experts in both the US and UK have also stepped in to reassure regular vape users not to be concerned about using fully regulated vaping products via the FDA in the US or the UK’s TPD.

Vapers in the UK have also been reassured by government body Public Health England (PHE) which has previously reported that vaping is 95 per less harmful than smoking cigarettes – assuming products used are from verified and reliable source.

Martin Dockrell, the head of Tobacco Control at PHE, advised all vapers to use tightly regulated e-cigarette and vape products, saying: “A full investigation is not yet available but we’ve heard reports that most of these cases were linked to people using illicit vaping fluid bought on the streets or homemade, some containing cannabis products, like THC, or synthetic cannabinoids.

He added: “Our advice remains that e-cigarettes are a fraction of the risk of smoking, and using one makes it much more likely you’ll quit successfully than relying on willpower alone.

“But it’s important to use UK-regulated e-liquids and never risk vaping home-made or illicit e-liquids or adding substances, any of which could be harmful.”

Professor Linda Bauld, a public health expert at Edinburgh University, was also quoted in British newspaper The Guardian as saying: “It seems highly unlikely that widely available nicotine-containing vaping products, particularly of the type regulated in Europe, are causing these cases.

“All the evidence to date suggests that illicit marijuana vaping products (THC oils) are the cause. In particular, a compound called tocopherol acetate may be the culprit.”

The US government’s Centers For Disease And Control and Prevention (CDC), who is undertaking the investigation, along with the American Medical Association (AMA) who have been urging consumers to avoid vaping altogether, has also come under fire.

Gregory Conley, president of the American Vaping Association, criticized the AMA for “fear mongering about nicotine vaping products” and not mentioning “the very real risks of vaping illicit THC products”.

Critics are also concerned the CDC’s blanket advice serves more of an instruction to smokers to keep smoking tobacco than helping to prevent further hospitalizations of those who are vaping black market THC products.

Public health expert Dr. Michael Siegel, a leading doctor and researcher at the Boston University School of Public Health called it “irresponsible” adding: “There are millions of people who are vaping nicotine-containing e-liquids and it would not be prudent for these millions of people to return to smoking in order to avoid the risk of this “unknown” and “mysterious” medical condition.

“Moreover, with such vague advice, no one is likely to change their behaviour because they are not being warned about any specific, identifiable risk.”

Public Health England added that e-cigarettes remain a “fraction of the risk of smoking” and advise vapers to take sensible choices when vaping such as buying from a reputable source and ensuring they are properly regulated products.

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