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Houston vape shop owner: Marijuana products putting 'black eye' on industry

CDC data shows 76 percent of people who reported what they inhaled said they used THC products.

HOUSTON — New data from the CDC shows a correlation between people who vaped THC products and lung illnesses related to vaping.

THC is the psychoactive mind-altering compound of marijuana that produces the “high."

A North Texas woman is the state's first death linked to vaping-related lung illness. The Texas Department of State Health Services has identified 95 cases of severe lung disease in e-cigarette users.

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Patients with the disease in Texas range from 13 to 75 years old, but have a median age of 22, DSHS said. 

One-quarter of those affected are minors and three-quarters are male, according to DSHS. Almost 9 in 10 said they had vaped products containing THC or marijuana.

THC products, while legal in some states, are not legal in Texas.

Vapor Galleria store owner Erick Jones worries people in states where recreational marijuana use is not legal, such as Texas, may have purchased THC vaping products on the black market.

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”If they’re getting it on the black market, and you don’t know exactly what’s in that cartridge, you’re playing Russian Roulette every time," Jones said. ”You don’t want to do something when you feel like, man, is this dangerous?”

Jones said he has lost business from all the headlines about vaping-related lung illness and defended nicotine vaping as a safe alternative to traditional cigarettes.

”The black eye that this THC epidemic is putting on the vape industry has to stop," Jones said.

Thanks to a grant from the Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas, researchers at the Baylor College of Medicine have developed a screening protocol for pediatricians: questions they should ask kids and their parents, and educational materials that they will give to the CDC to be used nationally.

”Pediatricians and health providers were really taken aback by this surge in e-cigarette use because traditional tobacco use has been on the decline in adolescents," said Adrienne Lynch, senior media advocacy manager for the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network.

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Both Lynch and Jones agree the FDA needs to regulate the vaping industry, preventing unchecked black market products from creating any more potential health risks.

The CDC says of the 1,299 cases of vaping-related lung illness nationwide, 573 people reported information on what specifically they inhaled.

  • About 76% reported using THC-containing products; 32% reported exclusive use of THC-containing products.
  • About 58% reported using nicotine-containing products; 13% reported exclusive use of nicotine-containing products.

In a previous statement, the CDC wrote

Most of the people (77%) in this outbreak reported using THC-containing products, or both THC-containing products and nicotine-containing products, according to a report published today in the CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR).