FDA Opens Criminal Investigation Around Increasing Vaping-Related Illnesses

The FDA headquarters sign

SILVER SPRING, Md. — The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has taken its investigation into vaping-related illnesses one step further.

According to The Washington Post, the agency's Office of Criminal Investigations has been looking into the illnesses since shortly after they were first reported this summer.

That office conducts criminal investigations of illegal activities involving FDA-regulated products, arresting those responsible and bringing them before the Justice Department for prosecution.

News of the criminal investigation comes as the number of reported cases climbed to more than 500 in 38 states. Earlier this month, the FDA and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announcing they were teaming up with state and local health officials as states report cases of respiratory disease associated with the use of electronic cigarettes and vapor products, as Convenience Store News previously reported.

Although the cause is unknown, all reported cases had a history of e-cigarette or vaping use, officials have said. Initial data shows that most people had a history of using e-cigarette products containing THC, that many people said they used both nicotine and THC, and that some reported using only nicotine products. Many people have also said they used black market or illicit THC products. THC is the active ingredient in marijuana that produces the high.

The FDA is not pursuing prosecution of people for personal use of any controlled substances.

"The focus is on the supply chain," said Mitch Zeller, director of FDA's Center for Tobacco Products. "We're all alarmed by reports about THC-containing products," he said, even if THC has not been present in every case.