CDC’s Fearmongering Placing Public At Risk CDC’s Fearmongering Placing Public At Risk

Agency’s vague statement targeting e-cigarettes and nicotine-vaping products doesn’t tell the complete story.

The last couple of months have been uncertain and concerning for the vaping community at large. During the last several week’s reports of mysterious outbreaks of various diseases loosely connected to “vaping” have been popping up throughout the United States.

After the Illinois Department of Health announced the death of a patient connected to these outbreaks, the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued a vague statement of their own. It warned people against vaping, something which covers a wide variety of products, devices, and active ingredients created by thousands of companies across the globe. The statement does appear to target nicotine-vaping with constant references to and warnings against the use of e-cigarettes specifically. This targeting comes despite multiple reports connecting these diseases to illegally-produced cannabis oil cartridges, not nicotine e-liquid from reputable brands.

Agency officials have defended the statement, stating their investigation is ongoing and that these outbreaks cover a variety of illnesses in multiple regions, which may or may not share a single common source. The vaping community and vaping industry at large have criticized the agency for creating a general climate of fear and paranoia regarding nicotine-vaping, which is already highly regulated. It only emboldens the vaping community when illegally-produced cannabis oil cartridges are more likely to be the source of these outbreaks.

By explicitly targeting nicotine-vaping products and devices without even mentioning counterfeit cannabis oil cartridges, the agency may be unnecessarily placing lives at risk. Users may continue to purchase and use these cartridges, often created using low-quality product deemed unfit for sale or use as other extracts, unless they understand the real issue.

Truth In Government

To date, the CDC has officially reported up to 215 cases of acute lung disease in various outbreaks across 22 states throughout the country. Some of the more prominent conditions in these outbreaks are cases of lipoid pneumonia, acute respiratory distress syndrome, and chemical pneumonitis.

Following the recent death of an Illinois patient involved in one of these outbreaks, the agency issued a broad statement warning against the so-called dangers of “vaping.” In the statement, agency officials specifically attribute the death to “e-cigarette or ‘vaping’ devices” despite citing no autopsy or toxicology reports. They go on to specifically address traditional e-liquid based vapor products and devices without even mentioning the possibility of illegally produced cannabis oil cartridges.

Their statement against nicotine-vaping comes despite reports all 21 cases of “vaping related” lung disease in California are attributed to the use of illegally produced cannabis oil cartridges. The same was true elsewhere, as nearly all of the 27 cases reported in Wisconsin also followed this trend. A case report published in January of this year correctly attributed an instance of acute lung disease to the use of butane hash oil, a potential extract used in these illegally produced cartridges.

An important point to consider is that lipid pneumonia is a severe, acute lung disease which has been known to be caused by the inhalation of oils. Nicotine containing vapor products contain various amounts of propylene glycol and vegetable glycerin alongside the use of natural and artificial flavorings, none of which pose any risk of causing lipid pneumonia.

Truth About Vaping

Misinformation such as the statement issued by the CDC poses a public health risk. By creating a general paranoia surrounding nicotine-based vapor products, which may prevent adult smokers from considering a proven alternative to tobacco to help them quit, they’re actively helping create more smokers. A survey by Action on Smoking and Health, found only 13% of adult participants believe vaping is safer than smoking, with an unfortunately high 26% of participants believing it’s just as bad, if not worse.

Despite these misinformation campaigns targeting the vaping industry, vaping has repeatedly been proven as a smoking cessation device and safer alternative to tobacco. In independent case studies conducted by Public Health England and the Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center, researchers concluded vaping is 95% and 93% safer than smoking, respectively.

Looking past the general harm reduction value, a study by the University of Louisville found vaping to be the single most effective smoking cessation tool available on the market today. The study concluded vaping was even more effective than quitting cold turkey, using traditional nicotine replacement therapies, and even prescription options such as Chantix.

Another study published by the Journal of Aerosol Sciences found that vapers have a 57,000 times lower risk of developing cancer in their lifetimes when compared to smokers. Researchers also concluded that particulate matter found in vapor is far less harmful than particulate matter found in smoke, noting vapor particles dissipate nearly instantaneously, and do not contain the carcinogenic byproducts found in tobacco smoke.


The CDC’s specific targeting of nicotine-containing vapor products, as well as their omission of reports citing these outbreaks to the use of illegal cannabis cartridges, is placing the lives at risk and potentially creating an avoidable public health crisis. By targeting e-cigarettes without mention of these black market cartridges, users of these illegal and dangerous products may believe that so long as they specifically avoid e-cigarettes, they’re free of any potential harm and risk.

This misinformation also serves to create a general climate of paranoia and fear surrounding traditional nicotine-containing vapor products. When people are told they may suffer from lung-disease and potentially even die from the use of e-cigarettes, despite there being no evidence supporting this claim, adult smokers looking to quit may not consider vaping as a viable option. This is a real shame, given its repeatedly proven safety and efficacy.

The CDC must be focused and direct in their public health addresses, citing specific causes for these illnesses as various Departments of Health across the country report them. Flagrant misinformation like the statement cited above only serve to the detriment of public health at large by continuing to place oil cartridge users at risk. By not properly informing them of the associated risks of those products, the CDC is deterring adult smokers from using nicotine-vaping products to help them quit by creating a climate of fear based on outright lies.

What do you believe are responsible for these outbreaks popping up across the country? Is the CDC placing public health at risk with their misinformation and omissions? Please let us know what you think in the comments below. Be sure to like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter so you can receive all the latest vaping news!

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Katie Bercham - CocktailNerd Editor

Katie actually had a negative first experience of electronic cigarettes, picking up a cheap and horrible model from my local mall. Thanks to a chance meeting with co-editor David, she hasn’t had a tobacco cigarette in over 5 years. She brings a strong female voice to the e-cig community.