The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) have seized 44 websites selling illegal vaping cartridges containing THC, the primary psychoactive component of marijuana, as part of Operation Vapor Lock, an ongoing investigation by federal, state and local authorities to pinpoint the source of vaping products linked to a recent outbreak of lung injuries.

Many of the websites were identified based on interviews with patients who had developed the lung injury, or their families. The websites advertised a variety of THC vaping cartridge brands.  Although none of the products advertised on the 44 sites have been confirmed to be linked to any cases of lung injury, the FDA and DEA took action to seize these sites because they were advertising THC vaping products in clear violation of federal law.

Earlier this month, the CDC announced that based on fluid samples collected from the lungs of 19 patients with the vape-related lung injury, it found vitamin E acetate in all samples. THC was also identified in 82% of the samples and nicotine in 62%.

But the agencies say they are still looking into other substances and product sources as there may be more than one cause for the lung injury. So far, the FDA has received more than 1,200 samples of implicated products from 31 states, the vast majority of which are directly connected to patient illness.

“The latest national and state patient reports and produce sample testing suggest THC-containing vaping products, particularly those from informal sources like friends, family, or in-person or online dealers, are linked to most of the cases and play a major role in the incidents,” the FDA said in a statement.

To date, the outbreak has sickened more than 2,500 people across the country and killed 54.

“In the wake of recent injuries and deaths caused by vaping products, these seizures send a message to anyone seeking to capitalize on this dangerous trend,” said Acting DEA Administrator Uttam Dhillon. “DEA will continue to work in lockstep with FDA and other federal, state, and local partners to use all our authorities to pursue anyone that violates our laws and puts Americans in harm’s way.”

Beasley Allen lawyers Joseph VanZandt and Sydney Everett, together with Mass Torts Section Head Andy Birchfield, are currently representing several individuals who are suing the top U.S. vape maker JUUL for the negative impact its products have had on their lives. On Oct. 7 they also filed lawsuits on behalf of school districts in three states, which seek to protect students and recover resources spent fighting the vaping epidemic.

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