In this April 23, 2014 file photo, a man smokes an electronic cigarette in Chicago. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh, File)

In this April 23, 2014 file photo, a man smokes an electronic cigarette in Chicago. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh, File)

U.S. vaping concerns loom as Canada legalizes pot devices

Deaths in the U.S. linked to vaping may dampen demand for cannabis vapes in Canada

A wave of illnesses and deaths in the U.S. linked to vaping products may dampen demand for soon-to-be-legal cannabis vapes in Canada later this year, industry watchers say.

An ongoing vaping probe south of the border — where as many as five people have died and hundreds more have fallen ill — may slow sales growth in what has been one of the fastest growing categories in the industry, said Jennifer Lee, Deloitte Canada’s Cannabis national leader.

“It’s going to create some hesitation in the market,” she said in an interview. However, new users are more likely to be deterred than smokers who are looking to shift to reduced-risk products, Lee added.

READ MORE: Vaping linked to cannabis use in young people, study finds

A growing number of health and regulatory authorities in recent days have urged consumers to stop vaping until it is clear what the root cause is.

The U.S. investigation could present a hindrance, or an opportunity, for the sector, depending on the ultimate conclusion, said Michael Armstrong, an associate business professor at Brock University in St. Catharines, Ont.

“It’s an opportunity for the legal producers to say, ‘OK, look, our products are tested. We have consistent manufacturing processes.’… Whereas with black market products, who knows what got put into those cartridges,” he said.

READ MORE: Cannabis companies want to bring a new mood to the workplace

But if vaping itself triggers the problem, rather than a particular additive, “that would be a much bigger problem for the Canadian cannabis industry.”

The string of mysterious, in some cases fatal, lung illnesses linked to vaping in the U.S. comes as Canada prepares to legalize new categories of cannabis products, including liquid concentrates for vaping, later this year.

Cannabis vaporization is gaining popularity as a more discreet way to consume pot and, similar to tobacco vapes, as a less harmful option that smoking a joint.

According to 2018 figures in U.S. states which had legalized cannabis for medical or recreational use, these devices were the second-largest category of sales at 21 per cent, behind flower at 46 per cent and ahead of edibles at 11 per cent, according to Deloitte.

In anticipation of a similar demand in Canada, several Canadian cannabis companies have struck vaping deals in recent months.

In July, Vancouver-based Auxly Cannabis Group Inc. announced it received a $123-million investment and the global licences to vaping technology under a research and development partnership with tobacco giant Imperial Brands.

And in June, U.S. vape maker Pax Labs Inc. struck a partnership with four Canadian licensed producers — Aphria, Aurora Cannabis, Organigram and Supreme Cannabis — to allow them to offer their cannabis concentrates in pods that work with their devices.

But on Monday, the American Medical Association was the latest health authority to sound the alarm on vaping, urging people to avoid using the products until more information is known.

“The e-cigarette-related lung illnesses currently sweeping across the country reaffirm our belief that the use of e-cigarettes and vaping is an urgent public health epidemic that must be addressed,” said the association’s president Patrice A. Harris in a statement.

Health Canada last week warned of potential risk of pulmonary illness associated with vaping and urged users to monitor themselves for symptoms such as cough, shortness of breath and chest pain but said there were no cases in the country to date.

In the U.S., there have been at least 450 possible cases of respiratory illnesses linked to vaping, including at least five deaths, this year.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said that “many” of these patients reported recent use of products containing THC or tetrahydrocannabinol, a compound found in cannabis that produces a high and urged consumers to steer clear of vaping until their probe is complete.

The CDC told reporters that some laboratories have identified Vitamin E acetate in some of the product samples, which will be further examined, but at this stage ”no one device, product or substance has been linked to all cases.”

READ MORE: Canadian officials monitor reports of vaping-linked illnesses in the U.S.

The Food and Drug Administration said many of the samples tested contain THC and Vitamin E acetate, a substance found in topical and dietary supplements. The FDA said it does not have enough information to conclude that this substance is the culprit, but also advised against vaping for now.

“Because consumers cannot be sure whether any THC vaping products may contain Vitamin E acetate, consumers are urged to avoid buying vaping products on the street, and to refrain from using THC oil or modifying/adding any substances to products purchased in stores,” it said.

Even when legal options are available, many consumers turn to illicit market vendors lured by price, or convenience.

For example, the latest survey figures from Statistics Canada show that four in 10 pot buyers say they are shopping at illegal sources — months after Canada legalized cannabis flower, seeds and plants in October.

Megan McCrae, the board chair of the Cannabis Council of Canada, said the U.S. reports are “disturbing” but appear to be linked to cutting agents, notably used in the illegal market.

There is always a risk that perceived health risks, whether founded or not, may have a negative impact, she said, but it is unclear whether this will impact industry vape sales in Canada.

The illicit vape market in Canada is estimated to be worth roughly $1-billion, she added.

“Most of these issues coming out of the U.S. are related to black market product and what black market producers are doing to cut corners… This could hopefully help bolster legal channels,” said McCrae, who is Aphria’s vice-president of marketing but was speaking on behalf of the council.

Health Canada said the use of vitamins, as well as colouring and sweetening agents, are prohibited from use in cannabis vaping products, which will be available for sale in mid-December at the earliest.

“Inhalation poses potential health risks because of the greater sensitivity and vulnerability of pulmonary tissue to certain chemicals,” said spokesman Andre Gagnon in an emailed statement. “For this reason, some of the regulatory requirements pertaining to inhalable cannabis extracts, such as vaping products, are even more stringent.”

Armina Ligaya, The Canadian Press

READ MORE: Health official warns school district about vaping

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Just Posted

BC Ferries issued a reminder on May 17 that there will be no additional sailings over the Victoria Day weekend and that travel is limited to essential reasons only. (Photo: K-J Millar/The Northern View)
No additional holiday weekend sailings

BC Ferries reminds travellers health orders are in place for essential travel only

Reverend Paul Williams of St. Andrews Cathedral Church stands next to the metal cross showing the enormity of the fabricated piece by a parishioner and stored away for over ten years. The goal is to have the cross mounted to the roof of the sanctuary so it can welcome those entering the harbour. (Photo: K-J Millar/The Northern View)
A cross to bear for the roof of St. Andrews Cathedral Church

A fabricated metal cross made by a parishioner is seeing the light of day after 15 years in storage

Kristy Maier, Prince Rupert mom, SD 52 trustee, basketball treasurer, district PAC liaison said it is important to teach children to be part of the community. (Photo: K-J Millar/The Northern View)
Heart of the City – Kristy Maier

Coming back to her ‘people’ Kristy Maier now teaches little people how to be a community

It doesn’t matter where or how you received a COVID-19 vaccination, to receive the second immunization everyone must register on the ‘Get Vaccinated’ system health officials said, on May 11. While numbers are down Prince Rupert has not yet ‘zero’ cases as of numbers reported for May 2nd to 8th. (Image: BCCDC)
Prince Rupert still not at ‘zero’ COVID-19 cases

For second immunizations everyone in Prince Rupert and region must register, health officials said

Food programs such as the BC Fruit and Veggies program are important to student learning and students would be at a loss without them, Jeremy Janz principal of Pacific Coast School said, on May 13. Full tummies are the best way to start the day for Prince Rupert students, Natalia White (11) and Nikisha Johnson (12) who attended the official launch of the Breakfast Club of Canada program at PRMS on Feb. 25, 2020. (Photo: K-J Millar/The Northern View)
UPDATED: School fruits and veggies may be cut, said BC Liberals — Not so said Premier’s office

P.R. students healthy food knowledge grew from the BC School Fruit and Vegetable Nutritional program

An avalanche near Highway 1 in Glacier National Park. Avalanche Canada will benefit from a $10 million grant from the B.C. government. (Photo by Parks Canada)
Avalanche Canada receives $10-million grant from B.C. government

Long sought-after funds to bolster organization’s important work

Sicamous RCMP Sgt. Murray McNeil and Cpl. Wade Fisher present seven-year-old Cody Krabbendam of Ranchero with an award for bravery on July 22, 2020. (Contributed)
7-year old Shuswap boy receives medal of bravery for rescuing child at beach

Last summer Cody Krabbendam jumped into the lake to save another boy from drowning

B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix and provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry update the province’s COVID-19 vaccine program, May 10, 2021. (B.C. government)
B.C.’s COVID-19 infection rate stays below 500 a day over weekend

14 more deaths, down to 350 in hospital as of Monday

Royal Bay Secondary School’s rainbow crosswalk was vandalized shortly after being painted but by Monday, coincidentally the International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia, the crosswalk had been cleaned up and students had surrounded it with chalk messages of support and celebration. (Zoe Ducklow/News Staff)
B.C. high’s school’s pride crosswalk restored following ‘hateful’ graffiti attack

Hate terms, racial slur, phallic images spray-painted at Greater Victoria high school

Terrance Mack would have celebrated his 34th birthday on May 13, 2021. Mack’s family has identified him as the victim of a homicide in an apartment on Third Avenue in Port Alberni sometime in April. (SUBMITTED PHOTO)
Family identifies Ucluelet man as victim of Vancouver Island homicide

Terrance Mack being remembered as ‘kind, gentle’ man

Vancouver Canucks’ Jake Virtanen (18) and Calgary Flames’ Josh Leivo, front right, vie for the puck as goalie Jacob Markstrom, back left, watches during the first period of an NHL hockey game in Vancouver, on Saturday, February 13, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Vancouver Canucks forward Jake Virtanen sued over alleged sexual assault

Statement of claim says the woman, identified only by her initials, suffered physical and emotional damages

An avalanche near Highway 1 in Glacier National Park. Avalanche Canada will benefit from a $10 million grant from the B.C. government. (Photo by Parks Canada)
Avalanche Canada receives $10-million grant from B.C. government

Long sought-after funds to bolster organization’s important work

Daily confirmed COVID-19 cases reported to B.C. public health, seven-day rolling average in white, to May 12, 2021. (B.C. Centre for Disease Control)
B.C. preparing ‘Restart 2.0’ from COVID-19 as June approaches

Daily infections fall below 500 Friday, down to 387 in hospital

(Kamloops This Week)
Puppy’s home in question as BC Supreme Court considers canine clash

Justice Joel Groves granted an injunction prohibiting the sale or transfer of the dog

Most Read