As vaping-related illness grows, Alaska avoids any cases

A local vape shop owner believes illegal THC cartridges are the ones hurting people because of harmful ingredients. (WJHG/WECP)
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ANCHORAGE (KTUU) Lung injuries associated with vaping and e-cigarettes have now affected over 2,000 people, but none in Alaska. In fact, Alaska is the only state that hasn’t reported any cases, and recent findings by the CDC could point to a reason why.

Since the outbreak of vaping-related lung injuries began, vape shops like Local Legends have been feeling the burn.

“There has been a drop in business," said Kevin Collins, owner of Local Legends Vape Shop.

He also says nicotine vapes aren't the culprit.

“It was THC concentrates that were tainted with vitamin E acetate, usually done by illegal means."

Vitamin E acetate is used as a thickener for vaporizers containing THC, the psychoactive chemical found in marijuana. The CDC recently found that out of 29 samples from the lungs of victims of the outbreak, all 29 contained the acetate.

“It does not necessarily mean that vitamin E acetate is causing this outbreak,” said Eliza Muse, Manager for the Alaska Department of Health and Social Services Marijuana Education Program. “But it certainly is getting us closer to better understand the outbreak."

And while the CDC hasn't conclusively said it's the cause, vitamin E acetate is notably absent from Alaskan products.

“The alcohol, marijuana control office here in Alaska, and the board, reviewed all approved vaporizing cartridges, vapor products, and found that none of the products approved for use here in Alaska contained vitamin e in their ingredients list," Muse said.

But until a definite cause is found, the CDC and DHSS recommends avoiding THC vapes.

“Particularly stay away from an informal source, or stay away from the illicit marketplace,” Muse said.

They also highly recommend avoiding products containing the acetate, and advise against modifying or adding anything to any vapes or e-cigarettes you own, even if they’re purchased from a legitimate source.

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