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As the nation wrestles with a vaping illness ‘epidemic’ caused by black market products, the world’s largest online retailer responded by quietly removing products that could be used to make unlicensed vape cartridges.

A mysterious lung illness caused by vaping has killed at least six people and hospitalized hundreds across the US. The White House recently responded by threatening to ban all flavored e-cig and vape products nationwide. Now, Amazon, the world’s largest online retailer, is responding the “epidemic” by quietly removing all items that could be used to make unlicensed vape cartridges.

As reported by Minnesota Public Radio, Amazon began removing DIY vape products this week without any announcements or fanfare. The online retailer, which generated over $213 billion in sales last year, has not yet responded for comments to the press.

Amazon previously featured sales for items like “Dank Vape Empty Packaging” and “Cali Plug Carts Packaging,” two unlicensed vape “brands” that have been implicated in the vaping illness’s spread. Black marketeers will buy empty vape cartridges then fill them with flavored oils that may or may not contain nicotine or THC, then sell these untested and unregulated products on the streets. 

Although health officials still aren’t sure what causes the illness, nor have they determined which brands – licensed or unlicensed – are largely responsible for the outbreak, authorities believe the main culprit is an additive or contaminant mixed into vape cartridges. The latest chemical tests suggest that one additive, vitamin E acetate, could be causing vaping’s deadly pulmonary issues. 

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Vape pen and cartridge manufacturers, particularly those in the legal cannabis space, have reacted to the illness by issuing press releases. These companies claim that their products do not contain vitamin E acetate or any other common fillers, like polyethylene glycol. In the past few years, many marijuana vape pen producers stopped using fillers and now fill their cartridges with pure cannabis oils. According to Marijuana Business Daily, weed dispensaries and recreational pot shops claim that their vape pen sales have not been harmed by news of the vaping illness.

Amazon itself does not supply vape cartridge products. Although the company does sell its own branded products, most of its sales are handled by third-party vendors, where Amazon simply acts as a platform to facilitate sales.

Concerns stemming from vaping and e-cigs have been around for a while, though. American high schoolers have been ditching tobacco products in favor of e-cigs for years, namely because vape products are often seen as less harmful than smoking. In June, San Francisco banned all e-cig sales within city limits, even though the world’s largest e-cig manufacturer, JUUL, is headquartered in the Golden Gate City.

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