The Fall of Vaping and Social Media

Grind for September 13th
“When we remember we are all mad, the mysteries disappear and life stands explained.”
– Mark Twain


The Headline

The ‘safe alternative’ to cigarettes is no longer safe

The Grind

The Oregon Health Authority is currently investigating the death of an individual who was hospitalized with a severe respiratory illness after using a THC vape product he purchased at a legal cannabis dispensary.

In the past three months, more than 200 people throughout the country have come down with the same illness. All of them used e-cigarettes prior to experiencing symptoms.

“We don’t yet know the exact cause of the illness,” explains investigator Ann Thomas. “Whether they’re caused by contaminants, ingredients in the liquid, or something else…At this point, we’d say we don’t really know what is safe.”

Last month, a second patient died from the vaping-related illness in Illinois.

The Details

In July, researchers confirmed that the chemicals Juul uses to flavor its vape liquids can produce harmful chemicals (called acetals) that are known to irritate the respiratory system.

Last week, FDA investigators discovered Vitamin E acetate in samples of the vaping products used by individuals suffering from the unnamed respiratory illness.

A separate investigation by the New York State Department reported “very high levels of Vitamin E acetate” in black-market cannabis cartridges.

“We haven’t looked at the toxicity of Vitamin E in the lungs,” says researcher Laura Crotty Alexander. “The lungs are designed to exchange gas molecules; they’re not designed to be exposed to other chemicals.”

The Updates

In a report published last Friday, investigators describe the presence of oil-carrying immune cells (called “lipid-laden macrophages”) inside the lungs of nine patients suffering from vape lung.

“These cells are very distinctive, and we don’t often see them,” explains researcher Scott Aberegg. “That made everybody start to think carefully about why they were there. Are they scavenging debris in the lungs that was introduced through vaping?”

A separate study, also published last Friday, detected the same cells in 7 of 14 patients treated for vape lung.

“We need to determine if these cells are specific for the illness or whether they are also seen in vaping patients who are not ill and don’t have symptoms,” continues Aberegg. “If they are only seen in patients who get sick, we can begin to make some connections between what we’re seeing in the lipid-laden macrophages and whatever components of the vaping oil may be causing this syndrome.”

Serves You Right

The Headline

State AGs launch antitrust probes into Facebook and Google

The Grind

New York Attorney General Letitia James on Friday announced an antitrust probe that seeks to determine if Facebook stifled competition and put users’ information at risk.

“Even the largest social media platform in the world must follow the law and respect consumers,” said James. The investigation will focus on the site’s “dominance in the industry and the potential anticompetitive conduct stemming from that dominance.”

The Details

Joining James in the Facebook investigation are AGs from Florida, Colorado, Iowa, Nebraska, Ohio, North Carolina, Tennessee, and DC.

Some of these states are also involved in a separate probe, led by Texas AG Ken Paxton, into Google’s impact on digital advertising markets and the potential harm to consumers resulting from the search engine’s ad choices.

“The extreme concentration in the technology industry is bad for the consumer, and in our opinion it’s bad for America,” said Tennessee AG Herbert Slatery III. “The concentration has stifled innovation with market distortions [in] research and development, as entrepreneurs avoid competing with Google and Facebook and other tech giants. So we need to do something about that.”

Slatery’s words reflect a widespread frustration with tech companies even as people remain hooked on their services.

Google and Facebook are also facing pressure from federal authorities, including a Department of Justice investigation into big tech’s effects on competition an innovation.

In July, Facebook agreed to pay $5 billion to settle an FTC probe into its data privacy practices. This week, the agency hit Google’s YouTube with a $170 million fine regarding the site’s handling of children’s privacy.

Did you know… When you walk down a steep hill, the pressure on your knees is equal to three times your body weight.