Brendan Carson wants the vaping industry more regulated and organized.
Carson, who owns Andrenochrome Labs Inc. on Shawnigan Lake Road, which manufactures e-liquid for electric cigarettes, said the increase in health issues related to vaping recently is mainly caused by people who use illicit cartridges containing marijuana in their vapes.
He said the black market cartridges sometimes use fatty acids that can cause lipoid pneumonia when inhaled into the lungs.
“We only use ingredients that have been approved by Health Canada,” Carson said at the lab, the biggest one of its kind on Canada’s west coast and the only one on Vancouver Island.
“In fact, we have to report every incident of people coughing or other symptoms after vaping to Health Canada within seven days, and we’ve never had to report any instances in the five years we’ve been in business.”
In the U.S., at least eight people have died recently from a mysterious respiratory illness related to vaping, and a youth in London, Ontario, was put on life support last week in the first known case of a vaping-related illness in Canada.
In all, there have been more than 530 cases of respiratory illnesses across North America so far that are believed to be connected to vaping, although none have yet been reported in B.C.
As more cases ramp up, eight Canadian health organizations have called for urgent action from the federal government to treat vaping like smoking.
The Centre for Disease Control acknowledged in a press release that based on data, most patients who have experienced lung problems have reported using e-cigarette products containing THC, a cannabinoid found in cannabis.
But additional data indicates that many affected patients reported vaping THC and nicotine, although some patients reported using e-cigarette products containing only nicotine.
Dr. Shannon Waters, a health officer with Island Heath, said it just isn’t known yet exactly what is causing the health problems, so it’s premature to point fingers at specific causes at this time until more research is completed.
She said the Island’s doctors are being instructed to start keeping detailed records of their patients with lung issues this week.
“There are a lot more cases being reported in the U.S. than Canada right now, but that’s likely because it’s a bigger country and we think we’ll see more cases here once proper reporting structures are in place,” Waters said.
Carson, who was a two-pack-a-day smoker before he discovered vaping in 2008, said e-cigarettes are widely regarded as a good way to help people quit smoking and, after personal experience, he knows that it’s true.
He said he believes the vaping industry should be more restrictive in its advertising, and noted that Andrenochrome Labs is only allowed to advertise in adults-only facilities where children are not allowed.
“It’s bigger groups, like tobacco companies, which also own vaping companies, that are bringing vaping products into convenience stores,” Carson said.
“I don’t want to see vaping products in the hands of kids. There are strict regulations in place under the Tobacco and Vaping Products Act but they are not being enforced properly because Health Canada had to train new officers to enforce them and many of the officers are not in place yet.”
Waters agreed that the industry came on the market and grew very quickly, and the medical community had hoped there would have been more structures in place to monitor and regulate it before the demand for the products surged.
“But enforcement issues have nothing to do with these illnesses,” she said.
As for all the vaping flavours, which many claim are meant to attract children to vaping, Carson reiterated that they are geared toward adult consumers, with the main purpose to help wean smokers off of tobacco, and that rampant advertising in full view of children should not be allowed.
Waters said there’s little doubt that the vaping flavours are specifically targeted at youth and children, and enforcing legislation that would help keep it out of their hands might be a good idea.
“There is some utility of long-term smokers using vaping to help them get away from their habit, but these are not the type of consumers who would be looking for flavoured products,” she said.
“Studies indicate that we’re now seeing between one quarter and one third of high school students try vaping, and that’s very concerning considering that smoking had been going down among students for years.”
Carson said using vaping to help stop smoking has proven results.
“Studies show vaping is 95 per cent safer than smoking,” he said.
“The smoke you see with vaping is actually water vapour so addictions are much less because people don’t become dependent on the chemicals in the smoke,” Carson said of vaping liquids that don’t contain nicotine or contain smaller amounts of nicotine. “Vaping helps remove people from a guaranteed death sentence if they continued to smoke.”
Health Canada states that while not all vaping products contain nicotine, most of the ones on the market do. Nicotine is an addictive substance.