WebMD Logo Icon
WebMD Connect to Care helps you find services to manage your health. When you purchase any of these services, WebMD may receive a fee. WebMD does not endorse any product, service or treatment referred to on this page. X

Marijuana's Role In Vaping-Related Illnesses

By Michael LoRe
Medically Reviewed by Jennifer Casarella, MD on December 18, 2021
82 percent of patients hospitalized for e-cigarette, or "vaping," product use-associated lung injury reported using products containing tetrahydrocannabinol (THC).

Marijuana products have played a major role in vaping-related illnesses and injury, according to recent reports by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Eighty-two percent of patients hospitalized for e-cigarette or vaping product use-associated lung injury (EVALI) reported using products containing tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the psychoactive compound found in marijuana, according to the CDC.

More than three-fourths (78 percent) of these patients also admitted to acquiring their products from informal sources which included dealers, online or via family and friends. Even obtaining THC-containing products from legal dispensaries is still questionable as users are unaware if a given distributor is actually licensed by the state.

In December 2019, approximately 10,000 illegal vape pens were seized from unlicensed retailers in California. The issue with these black-market products is that buyers and users aren't fully aware of what is actually in the product. Labels, product names and flavors are typically appealing to users, who may overlook harmful ingredients and side effects.

"Right now, we recommend avoiding THC-containing e-cigarettes or vaping products, and not altering or adding anything to already-purchased vaping products," says Dr. Elizabeth Silver, managing director of the Poison Control Center at the University of Kansas Health System.

One substance that is often added to THC-containing vape oils and products is Vitamin E acetate. Vitamin E acetate is a sticky, honey-like substance that is used as an additive to dilute a THC-containing product.

Vitamin E is usually good for you, but when inhaled in this form, it can stick to lung tissue resulting in illness or injury. Vitamin E acetate was identified in fluid samples of 48 of 51 EVALI patients. While Vitamin E acetate may not be the only culprit leading to EVALI, the trend is certainly worth watching.

While more than 80 percent of EVALI patients have claimed to just be using THC-containing products, the other 20 percent of patients say they strictly used nicotine-containing products (which don't contain Vitamin E acetate).

Doctors, researchers and scientists are actively studying e-cigarettes and vaping and their short- and long-term effects. Marijuana vaping products are playing a major role in EVALI, but they don't appear to be the only culprits.