By Marissa Wenzke, with David Downs, Leafly.
More than 2,051 Americans are sick and 39 have died from vaping-associated pulmonary injury (VAPI) this year.
There are many suspects, but the US Centers for Disease Control’s “very strong culprit of concern” is a new cutting agent found in illicit THC vaporizer cartridges across the nation. Tocopheryl-acetate, also known as vitamin E oil, surged in popularity on the street market ahead of the lung injury outbreak last summer.
Industrial chemical manufacturers have sold vitamin E oil for years, but only as an ingredient in hand lotions or gummy vitamins. So who turned tocopheryl-acetate into a wildly popular and potentially deadly vape cartridge additive?
Although Honey Cut never disclosed its secret formula, testing by SC Laboratories in Santa Cruz showed that a 32 oz. bottle of Honey Cut bought off Craigslist in September 2019 contained 90% to 95% pure vitamin E acetate.
Multiple industry experts point to a mysterious, low-profile Los Angeles company called Honey Cut. By creating a new category of “thickening” vape cartridge additives, Honey Cut became a nationwide phenomenon. Its formula—and copycat products just like it—suddenly turned up last year in illicit THC vape cartridges nationwide.
The company itself appeared to be a kind of corporate ghost ship. Its name was attached only to a website and a P.O. box. Nobody knew who founded Honey Cut, who ran it, or who profited from it.