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What happened

Suddenly, there were hundreds of cases of severe lung injuries in areas around the USA. All the patients had vaped.

Yet, millions of smokers had been vaping nicotine for more than a decade without any cases of severe lung injuries.

In August of 2019, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced they were investigating an outbreak of lung injuries.

Over 2800 cases were identified, causing 68 deaths in the USA; in Canada there were 19 cases and no deaths.

76% of the patients were under 35 and 66% were male.

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The investigation and resolution

Vaping nicotine is a harm reduction strategy used by millions of smokers all over the world. Since the injuries only occurred in North America, it was clear the injuries were being caused by something other than standard nicotine eliquid.

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Almost 100% of the injured patients reported using illegal THC cartridges. Despite the evidence, the injury was named EVALI (E-cigarette or Vaping product use-Associated Lung Injury) implying the cause was vaping nicotine.

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To identify the substance causing the injuries, lung samples from the patients were analyzed. The fat-based substance, vitamin E acetate, was identified as causing the injuries. This substance can not be dissolved in water-based nicotine eliquid; they would separate in the container.

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Vaping products used were analyzed

The patients surrendered the products they were vaping to help identify the cause of the injuries. Nicotine eliquids contained no unexpected or harmful chemicals but 9 out of 10 illegal THC carts contained vitamin E acetate which is used as a cutting agent.

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More on what happened

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