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What is Vitamin E Acetate and Why Might It Be Harmful?

Vitamin E acetate isn't necessarily harmful when ingested as a supplement or applied to the skin via a cream, but studies have shown it can cause harm when inhaled.

Vitamin E in healthy doses is good for you; there's no debate there. It's a vitamin that dissolves in fat, and is naturally occurring in many of the wholesome foods you eat daily. But what is the Vitamin E acetate that is used in popular vaping products and why does it seem to be so harmful?

Because of its antioxidant characteristics and capabilities, studies have shown Vitamin E's effectiveness in treating many conditions ranging from Alzheimer's to certain blood disorders, and even decreasing menstrual cramp pain.

While Vitamin E is consumed via foods, dietary supplements, and even included in many cosmetic products like skin cream, officials at the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) identified Vitamin E acetate as a common component in many of the marijuana vaping products and oils that have hospitalized thousands with vaping-related illness and injury (EVALI), even resulting in death in some cases.

Vitamin E acetate doesn't necessarily cause harm when ingested as a supplement or applied to the skin via a cream, but studies have shown it can cause harm when inhaled. The sticky oil substance can cling to lung tissue resulting in illness, though the direct correlation and affect is still being rigorously studied, tested, and analyzed.

The vitamin has been found as an additive in vaping products, especially those containing THC, either as a thickening agent or dilution to make the oil in cartridges go further.

Vitamin E acetate was found in the lungs of 94 percent (48 of 51) of patients suffering vaping-related illness, but in none of the 99 healthy participants in a study published by The New England Journal of Medicine.

The FDA oversees Vitamin E acetate's usage as a supplement in lotions and regulates tobacco-related products, including nicotine vape products. Policing Vitamin E acetate's inclusion in THC-based vape products has proven to be much harder, considering the fact that marijuana regulations differ from state to state and marijuana is still banned at the federal level.

As with most of the information regarding vaping due to its recent rise in popularity, Vitamin E acetate's role and effects are still being studied and determined. One thing is for sure, its inclusion has been somewhat of a recent addition; for example, vape cartridges studied in Minnesota in 2018 were without Vitamin E acetate, but those from 2019 contained the additive.

While there's not much information on Vitamin E acetate's lasting impact on your lung health, what we know now is enough to at least avoid products that use it if you can.