Washington state banned the sale of vapor products containing vitamin E acetate Monday, a compound that federal health officials have identified as a possible cause of a vaping-related illness that has sickened more than 2,000 people nationwide.
The state Board of Health’s ban, to take effect Wednesday, follows findings released this month by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) linking the compound to the outbreak of lung injuries. Since reports of the illness began emerging earlier this year, 2,172 people reportedly have fallen ill in the U.S. and 42 have died, according to CDC data updated last week.
In Washington, where there have been 15 confirmed cases since April, health officials adopted an emergency rule banning the sale of flavored vapor products in October. The rule was extended Monday to include the ban of products containing vitamin E acetate.
Retailers are currently required to have a list of ingredients in their vaping products available for customers, and no processors have reported using vitamin E acetate in their products, said state Liquor and Cannabis Board spokesman Brian Smith. The board thus doesn’t have reason to believe products with the compound are being sold in stores, but they will be banned for 120 days starting Wednesday.
It’s not yet clear that the compound, an oil derived from the vitamin, is to blame. But in its first breakthrough in investigating the illness, the CDC discovered the compound in samples collected from the lungs of 29 people from 10 states who were sick. Most used products that included THC, the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana. As the CDC continues to investigate, it is warning people to refrain from using vaping products that include THC, especially if not bought in a store.
The finding isn’t definitive, and there may be multiple causes of the illness. But officials in states including Ohio and Colorado have also banned vaping products containing vitamin E acetate in some form.
“While we still need more research to identify a definitive cause, the evidence we have linking vitamin E acetate to the outbreak demands immediate action to protect the public’s health,” Washington Secretary of Health John Wiesman said in a statement.
Vitamin E acetate is an oil that can also be found in foods, dietary supplements and cosmetic products. It isn’t known to cause harm when used in those products but previous research has shown it can interfere with lung functions when inhaled, according to the CDC.
Health officials are advising that the only way to fully avoid risk of getting the illness is to refrain from e-cigarette and vaping products completely.
Also this week, it was reported that President Donald Trump has backed away from a promise to ban candy, fruit and mint flavors. According to The Washington Post and The Associated Press, Trump became convinced a ban could mean job losses and otherwise alienate voters.