CDC warns not to use vapes that include THC as vaping-related illnesses continue

BOSTON — With 15 people now dead from vaping-related illnesses, the CDC is warning people not to smoke e-cigarettes with the marijuana ingredient THC, saying it may play a role in the mysterious lung illness. 
Vaping expert Dr. Jonathan Winickoff from Mass. General Hospital for Children calls it an acute outbreak.

"We have multiple different kinds of pneumonia happening because of both THC and probably some nicotine product as well," Dr. Winickoff said.

Jonathan Lau owns two vape shops in Brighton. He's had to close one since Governor Charlie Baker banned the sale of vaping products in Massachusetts.

Lau tells Boston 25 News that he believes an oil used to cut THC on the black-market may be causing some of these vaping illnesses.

"I think the culprit is definitely Vitamin E Acetate," Lau said.

Related: Baker declares public health emergency, bans sale of all vaping products

Lau added that the price of THC cartridges at retail shops is driving people to the black market. Cartridges in pot shops can cost anywhere from $60 to more than $100 but cost only $20 dollars on the street. The problem, Lau says, is that they are cut with things like Vitamin E oil.

"But when Vitamin E is vaporized, it cools off in your lung and turns right back into an oil, which will coat your lungs with Vitamin E oil," he said.

Dr. Winickoff and the CDC say the real cause may be more nefarious.

"Almost certainly this is a multiple toxin outbreak," Dr. Winickoff said. "It's not linked to any one single toxin that the CDC has been able to find thus far."

So to be safe, he and the CDC are warning people not to smoke any THC right now.

>>>MORE: The effects of the Mass. vape ban: Price hikes and black market products

"If you're an adult using THC product that’s legal, best not to vape any THC until we figure out the components causing these illnesses," he said.