The state of Wisconsin issued a health warning across the district last month, stating that there’s been an outbreak of lung ailments in young people and teenagers, and that vaping is the predominant reason as to why. This has then led to over 100 separate cases of lung disease outbreaks across the US as well as a reported death in Illinois recently, which has set the anti-vaping brigade into overload once again. Of course, this sounds like another attack in the US on the vape industry yet as we delve deeper into the subject it becomes apparent that although the victims all reported to vaping, it’s what they were vaping that has resulted in the damage caused.
The rise of bootleg vaping has steadily grown in accessibility and popularity over the last few years and only now are we seeing the harsh reality of it. Bootleg vaping are e-liquids made by unlicensed sellers and can be considered as homebrews, created using concoctions of all different substances including THC and synthetic chemicals to give the user a different effect than your regular, legitimate e-liquid.
We take a look at what ‘bootleg vaping’ is and the effects it’s having both economically and socially in the US and UK, as well as why these homemade cartridges and liquids have become such a commodity amongst the public.
As aforementioned, bootleg vaping refers to the phenomenon of unlicensed mixologists making their own batches of e-liquids to be sold on the black market or to drug dealers who then sell on to the public. Many of the bootleg vapes found in the UK and US are actually vape cartridges which have been tampered with and can be used in regular vape pod devices. They are emptied of their original component (a regular legal e-liquid) and refilled with a cocktail of chemicals which is aimed to induce a high. Many of the counterfeit cartridges are deemed to be THC based, the same chemical found in marijuana which gives the drug its ‘high’ effect, yet a lot of the cartridges are in fact filled with a synthetic cannabinoid, otherwise known as spice.
These synthetic cannabinoids were created in laboratories as a replicant of regular THC, used when conducting experiments on the effects of THC on the human body. Synthetic cannabinoids are a class of molecules that bind to cannabinoid receptors in the body, which are the same receptors to which THC and CBD attach, however they can be as much as 100 times stronger than natural THC, resulting in abnormal and dangerous effects when used by humans.
In the early 2000s these were labelled as ‘legal highs’, packaged in ingestible or combustible formats on the shelves of head shops and specialist stores throughout the UK. After the Psychoactive Substance Act came into full effect in 2016, they have since transfused to being sold by illegitimate online vendors and drug dealers who claim they are THC oils. This has led to many harmful chemicals, brushed over as something they’re not, being made readily available at the click of a button or a walk down the street.
With the developmental rise of CBD oils, it can be somewhat confusing as to what’s legal and what’s not in the UK. CBD is an active ingredient derived from the same plant as THC, the cannabis plant, which is made up of more than 100 different cannabinoids that have differing effects on the body. Whilst a small number of legal CBD products including oils and e-liquids contain small traces of THC, the Home Office states a plant grown by an industrial hemp manufacturer can contain ‘no more than 0.2% THC content and that the THC must not be easily separated from it’ (finished products have even stricter limits on THC). To put this into context, the average cannabis sold in the UK has a THC percentage of approximately 16.2%.
In the US, the laws on cannabis differ from state to state, yet it is now recreationally legal to purchase in 11 districts including California, Michigan and Washington from a licensed vendor. This overall liberal outlook to cannabis is rather juxtaposing to the laws on e-cigarettes, which are beginning to tighten at a rapid rate, with increased pressure from the media and anti-vaping activists as evidenced by the San Francisco e-cigarette ban.
Furthermore, weed vape pens have proven to be very popular in the US, with celebrities such as Snoop Dogg and Ghostface Killah releasing signature weed pen brands to critical acclaim. Of course, these vape pens are licensed and have gone through a strict regulatory and testing process to see if they’re credible and non-harmful products.
In comparison, the average illegal bootleg vape you’ll get on a dodgy website or on the street in the UK or US is likely to be filled with all types of illegal and harmful chemicals, created to make the maximum profit possible with little care of consequence to the user. As evidenced by the growing number of hospital admissions in the US recently, these bootleg e-liquids aren’t to be trusted. We advise all purchasing of e-liquid, even blends containing no CBD or nicotine, to be made through a legitimate vendor like ourselves.
As witnessed, the effects from a health standpoint are pretty catastrophic with over a hundred cases of lung ailments amongst teenagers and young people already reported. It’s pretty safe to say that if these victims were vaping legitimate e-liquids, it’s very unlikely this increase of lung disease would’ve been so severe or even happened at all, with the health and safety of vape devices and e-liquids constantly scrutinised from the FDA (Food and Drugs Administration) in the US and the MRHA (Medical and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency) in Europe before they even make it to the shelves.
It can be argued that these easily accessible bootleg vapes have a damaging effect on the vape industry. Firstly, they give the media and the anti-vaping brigade an excuse to further slander e-cigarettes and blame vaping culture when health news reports like these make a splash. It also undoes and undermine all of the hard work that the vaping industry and public health organisations have carried out, particularly here in the UK, in advocating for the use of e-cigarettes as a less harmful alternative to tobacco. Secondly, from an economical standpoint more and more money is being pumped into the black market from these illegitimate sales which ultimately weakens the vape industry and the economy in general.
In truth, not much can be done by the authorities to crack down on these illegal vendors both online and physically, other than the odd shutdown or arrest. Tackling the problem as a collective is easier said than done and will require a major international police operation which unfortunately just isn’t within the UK and US’ agenda (we all know how Nixon and Reagan’s War On Drugs ended up). Any headway that can be achieved is through the education of young people in teaching them not to trust these unknown substances regardless of how easily obtainable or cheap. Hopefully then the anti-vaping media and activists may just finally see that vaping isn’t the cause of this problem, counterfeit untested vape products are.
For more information, visit our website www.vapeclub.co.uk or please don’t hesitate to contact us regarding any queries surrounding bootleg vaping or vaping in general.