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“We are in a critical fact-gathering stage of this investigation,” Mitch Zeller, director of the FDA’s Center for Tobacco Products, told reporters. “More information is needed to better understand whether there is a relationship between any specific products and any specific substances in those products and the reported illnesses.”

What seems to be causing the illness?

Possibly. As NPR reported this month, vitamin E became a “key focus” of New York state health officials’ investigation after cannabis-containing vaping cartridges submitted by those who had fallen ill tested positive for vitamin E acetate. But of the e-cigarette products tested by the FDA to date, Zeller said “no one substance or compound, including vitamin E acetate, has been identified in all the samples tested.”

Is vitamin E involved?

The role of flavored vape products in the current outbreak is unknown at this time. Some lawmakers and public health advocates have been pushing for flavored vape products to be banned since flavors first entered the market, out of a concern that they appeal to children. The timing of the recent move to ban flavored vape products may be linked to the current public concern about overall e-cigarette safety. Paul Billings, national senior vice president of advocacy at the American Lung Association, told NPR that “unfortunately it’s taken this crisis to finally prompt this action.”

Michael got his start in journalism at the Dorchester Community News, a community newspaper serving Boston’s largest neighborhood, where he covered a range of urban issues. Since the late 1980s, he has been a regular contributor to the Boston Globe. For 15 years he wrote a weekly column on local politics for the Boston Sunday Globe’s City Weekly section.

Michael Jonas has worked in journalism in Massachusetts since the early 1980s. Before joining the CommonWealth staff in early 2001, he was a contributing writer for the magazine for two years. His cover story in CommonWealth’s Fall 1999 issue on Boston youth outreach workers was selected for a PASS (Prevention for a Safer Society) Award from the National Council on Crime and Delinquency.

Michael lives in Dorchester with his wife and their two daughters.

About Michael Jonas

LOOKING TO Rob Gronkoswki for well-considered medical advice feels a bit like turning to Curt Schilling for tips on video game startups. They both excelled as pro athletes, but it’s not clear why anyone should think their gifts on the field translate to brilliant insight in other endeavors.

The former Pats tight end will now work as chief pitchman for Abacus Health Products, which makes a line of lotions, creams, and ointments containing CBD, or cannabidiol. CBD is a non-intoxicating ingredient in cannabis and hemp plants, now being touted as the cure for everything from cancer to Alzheimer’s disease.

Michael Jonas has worked in journalism in Massachusetts since the early 1980s. Before joining the CommonWealth staff in early 2001, he was a contributing writer for the magazine for two years. His cover story in CommonWealth’s Fall 1999 issue on Boston youth outreach workers was selected for a PASS (Prevention for a Safer Society) Award from the National Council on Crime and Delinquency.

There is now clear evidence of CBD’s benefit in reducing seizures among children with certain forms of epilepsy. Apart from that very specific use, however, proof of any health benefits is elusive.