Police seize 75,000 THC-laced cartridges as lung illness roils vaping industry

Minnesota police seized 75,000 vaping catridges with heavy doses of the active ingredient from marijuana this week as the outbreak of a lung illness linked to e-cigarettes alarmed federal healthcare officials and spurred state crackdowns.

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The disease, which has killed at least nine people and left hundreds ill, was the focus of a congressional hearing on Tuesday, and the White House has proposed banning flavored e-cigarettes amid concerns about teen usage. In Massachusetts, Gov. Charlie Baker took an unprecedented step by blocking the sale of vaping products for four months.

In the Minnesota raid, law enforcement officials in Anoka County near Minneapolis seized tens of thousands of cartridges containing THC, the active ingredient in cannabis, the Star Tribune reported. The cartridges, in flavors like Fruity Pebbles, Cherry Kush and Candy Land, came from outside the state.

While THC-laced products were used by many of the vapers who developed lung problems, a definitive link hasn't been found. Investigators are scrutinizing vaping products sold on the black market.

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E-cigarette industry executives, meanwhile, are questioning the sudden backlash against their products.

"Why aren't we banning cigarettes? Brandon Stump, CEO of Charlie's Chalk Dust, asked FOX Business on Tuesday. "What I can tell you is that 500,000 people are going to die this year from smoking combustible tobacco."

Juul Labs, the maker of flavored e-cigarettes, has said in the past that its products are healthier than tobacco, but the company took a different tack on Wednesday. CEO Kevin Burns resigned effective immediately, to be succeeded by K.C. Crosthwaite, an executive at Altria Group, which owns a 35 percent stake in the e-cigarette maker.

The company also suspended print and digital product advertising in the U.S., and said it would refrain from lobbying the Trump administration on its new e-cigarette policy.