SCIENCE should matter above everything to America’s Center for Disease Control (CDC). In practice, politics matters just as much. Reason reports that a Minnesota study has finally marshaled reliable data on the cause of a spate of deaths and illnesses among vapers in the US. It seems the culprit is vitamin E acetate, “a diluting and thickening agent found in black-market THC products.” In other words, those affected (mostly young people) have been vaping a cannabis byproduct that clogs the lungs. It killed at least 47 of them. Just a month ago, the CDC stated it still didn’t know what was causing the severe breathlessness and chest pain that also hospitalised more than 1500 people nationwide. It did give the affliction a name, though – as it happens, an inaccurate one: e-cigarette or vaping product use associated lung injury (EVALI).
Does this mean the CDC has now withdrawn its advice against using e-cigarettes? No. For one thing, the media likes the melodrama of a mysterious and dangerous new illness being linked to vaping. More importantly, anti-smoking zealots in the US and their wowser counterparts in this country are keen to exploit EVALI to prosecute their beloved war against puffing anything. And then there’s good old-fashioned pride: saying anything even vaguely nice about e-cigarettes sticks in their craws like deadly cannabis goo.