TENNESSEE

 

TOBACCO HARM REDUCTION 101: TENNESSEE

January 16, 2020

Key Points: 

  • Tennessee’s vaping industry provided more than $226 million in economic activity in 2018 while generating 2,864 direct vaping-related jobs. Sales of disposables and prefilled cartridges in Tennessee exceeded $8.3 million in 2016.

  • As of January 9, 2020, TDH has reported 77 cases of vaping-related lung illnesses, including two deaths. TDH notes the role of THC-containing vapor products, but does not give case counts for Tennessee. TDH earns a C for its reporting on vaping-related lung illnesses.

  • In 2017, only 1.5 percent of Tennessee high school students reported daily e-cigarette use. More data is needed.   

  • Only 6 percent of FDA retail compliance checks in Tennessee resulted in sales of e-cigarettes to minors from January 1, 2018 to September 30, 2019.

  • Tennessee spends very little on tobacco prevention. In 2019, Tennessee dedicated $0 on tobacco control, despite receiving $422 million in tobacco settlement payments and taxes.

TENNESSEE DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH LACKS TRANSPARENCY ON VAPING-RELATED LUNG ILLNESSES

November 5, 2019
  • The Tennessee Department of Health (TDOH) is omitting information on substances vaped in recent lung injuries, despite Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and other state health departments linking recent vaping-related lung illnesses to the use of products containing tetrahydrocannabinol (THC).

    • On October 17, TDH reported “a patient with serious respiratory disease associated with use of electronic cigarettes or other vaping devices” passed away.

    • On August 22, TDH issued an alert, “asking health care providers … to report any cases of suspected respiratory illness[es]” believed to be caused by vaping. On September 9, TDH identified six possible cases of vaping-related lung illnesses.

  • As of October 17, TDH has identified “53 lung injury cases associated with e-cigarette use or vaping.”

    • Of the 53 patients, 66 percent are male, and the “median age of patients is 24 years old and ages range from 16 to 56 years.”

  • TDH does not provide any information on what type of vaping devices were used by these patients prior to their illnesses. However, TDH does note, “national data suggests the products containing THC … are linked to most of the cases and play a major role in the outbreak.

  • TDH’s lack of transparency surrounding vaping-related lung illnesses is alarming. Further, the death reported in Tennessee was a Minnesota native who admitted to vaping devices containing THC and cannabidiol (CBD) oils.

  • In an October 15 update, CDC found 78 percent of self-reporting patients with vaping-related lung illnesses reported using vaping products containing THC.

  • The Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) reported the state’s first vaping-related death on September 6, 2019, noting the patient’s “lung injury was associated with vaping illicit THC products.

    • On October 16, 2019, MDH reported two more deaths from vaping-related lung illnesses. According to MDH, one patient admitted to vaping “illegal THC” and the second also admitted “vaping unknown products in addition to nicotine.

  • Other state health departments have also provided details on products used by patients with lung illnesses supposedly due to vaping.

    • The Utah Department of Health noted 94 percent of patients with vaping-related lung illnesses reported use of “any THC cartridges.

    • In a now defunct webpage, the California Department of Health found 81 percent of their state’s patients “vaped [a] product containing THC.

    • On October 11, the Iowa Department of Public Health reported that of 38 cases of possible vaping-related lung injury, 33 patients, or 86 percent, reported vaping THC-containing devices.

  • Tennessee law enforcement is well aware of the problem of black-market THC vaping products.

    • In November 2017, the Robertson County sheriff’s department seized “seven pounds of high grade marijuana and 31 vials of high potency THC vape liquid … a street value of about $30,000.”

    • In April, 2019, Nashville law enforcement collected “over 26 THC vape pens that contained 85 to 90-percent THC oil.” The 19 year-old in possession of the THC vaping devices “admitted he would buy the pens for $18 and sell them for $40.”

  • Despite recent headlines, e-cigarettes are substantially safer than traditional, combustible cigarettes. The American Cancer Society declared that “e-cigarette use is likely to be significantly less harmful for adults than smoking regular cigarettes.” This is attributed to the fact that “e-cigarettes do not contain or burn tobacco.

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©2020 by Tobacco Harm Reduction 101.