Vaping questions for the watchdogs

One of the facts that came out in the Big Tobacco Settlement of the 1990s was that the tobacco companies typically added glycerin to cigarette tobacco to keep it moist. That was a good idea since glycerin was a sweet thick easily digested liquid that drew moisture out of the air (if the air was not too dry). 

The downside was that when heated to high temperatures it formed the blistering agent acrolein, known to damage blood vessels, the heart and even promote bladder cancer. 

Fast forward a decade to when Colorado legalized recreational marijuana. So in order to avoid trouble I wrote an email to some health agency in Colorado (I do not remember who, it has been so many years ago) advising them to enact regulations against adding glycerin to marijuana products meant to be smoked. Did they do that? I do not know.

Anyway so now we have a problem with Vitamin E acetate in marijuana vaping products that is burning out the lungs of young users. The CDC and other health sites I have looked at pretty much promote the idea that Vitamin E acetate when inhaled is acting differently than when applied to the skin or taken orally. Maybe they are right, I am not a molecular biologist to understand the complexities of their possible theories, I tend to believe simple explanations probably because that is only what I can understand or it does not require tons of money, time and a lot of “ifs” and “buts”.

So, let us go back into the 1930s, when they did not know the structure of Vitamin E and did not have the fancy electronics to help deduce the structure. They had to do simple reactions on it and from the products backtrack to figure out the puzzle. The first thing they did was heat Vitamin E to high temperatures and they got durohydroquinone with a few other much smaller fragments. 

The interesting thing about durohydroquinone is that it is easily oxidized in the air to duroquinone. I do not have the original paper in front of me, so I assume they did the heating under low oxygen conditions. Anyway the nearest chemical cousin to duroquinone I can find toxicology data on is 1,4 benzoquinone, which is highly irritating to the skin. No comment on what it does to the lungs. It could not be any milder.

Anyway, the take-home message for the FDA should be that they need to clamp down on allowing any additives to vaped products unless the manufacturers provide scientific data about the main and side products from high heating these mixtures under vaping conditions. But that would be very time consuming, expensive, and more than likely nothing good for the marketing would come out of those studies. It would deep six the vaping industry.

— Richard Blythe, Terre Haute

Photograph tells emotional story

Mr. Joseph C. Garza’s photo last Saturday of Ms. Noel Harden [during the Night to Shine event] is the single greatest photo I have even seen in a newspaper.

This is a wonderful story about young students who are trying to do their best and dressing their best.

“Old Yeller,” was the first movie I ever cried at. This story brought tears to my eyes.

— Fred Storms, West Terre Haute


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