Former FDA head blames counterfeit e-cigarettes for rise in vape-related lung disease

President Trump's former Food and Drug Administration head continued to blame counterfeit e-cigarette products for lung injuries after a spike in such incidents among teens and young adults.

"The legal vapes have been actively regulated by FDA since Aug 2017. FDA has conducted thousands of inspections of manufacturers and vape stores, published manufacturing guidance, sought product removals etc. These tragedies point to illegal vapes and THC," former FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb wrote on Twitter Tuesday night.

"Health officials can target imports and conduct blitzes at international mail facilities to try and capture, shut down more illegal and counterfeit vapes and source some of the dangerous products. There are already published FDA lists of known dangerous ingredients to look for," he continued.

However, a spokeswoman for the American Lung Association said it's too early to tell if counterfeit e-cigarettes are solely to blame.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention logged 193 potential cases of severe lung illness associated with vaping as of last week. The cases were recorded in 22 states between June 28 and Aug. 20, prompting the CDC to investigate.

"With all due respect to former FDA Commissioner Gottlieb, I think it’s too soon to speculate about the cause or the reason why we’re seeing this … I firmly believe that had FDA not delayed the oversight of these products in July of 2017 that we would be in a much different position than we are today," Erika Sward, spokesperson for the American Lung Association, told FOXBusiness.

Gottlieb became FDA head in May 2017. Sward blamed him for what she called the "wild west e-cigarette marketplace."

"The tobacco industry has long been happy to place fingers when there have been issues of counterfeit cigarettes … The bottom line is that e-cigarettes are not safe, and from the American Lung Association’s perspective, no one should be using e-cigarettes," Sward said.

Before he left the FDA in April, Gottlieb said manufacturers must be the responsible parties, NBC News reported. E-cigarette companies are required to submit applications to the FDA by May 2020 to decide who can keep selling products.


"I think the manufacturers are culpable if their products are being used, whether the liquids are counterfeit or real,” he said. “Ultimately, they’re responsible for keeping their products out of the hands of kids.”

Meanwhile, the CEO of e-cigarette giant Juul Labs, Kevin Burns, said a spike in cases of critical lung disease in teenagers and young adults is "worrisome," but added that investigators should look at the risks of vaping THC instead, during an interview with CBS News on Wednesday.