Health and Science

Feds should regulate, not ban, vaping to prevent more deaths, says big cannabis firm co-founder

Key Points
  • "My worry is when regulators say we're going to stop it, they will get things into the (black) market," says former Canopy Growth co-CEO Bruce Linton.
  • Government regulators are beginning to crack down on vaping products as a mysterious lung illness has spread across the nation, sickening hundreds.
  • Linton says rather than ban the product, the government needs to tighten regulations and gain oversight of vapes.
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Bruce Linton on vaping crackdown: Good companies prefer more rules

The government needs to focus its efforts on regulating vaping products rather than banning them, former Canopy Growth co-CEO Bruce Linton told CNBC on Tuesday.

"My worry is when regulators say we're going to stop it, they will get things into the (black) market," said Linton, who has said he was fired by the cannabis company in July. "You're seeing the products people are vaping not being what people thought they were."

Government regulators are beginning to crack down on vaping products as a mysterious lung illness has spread across the nation and sickening nearly 400 people. At least six people have died after reportedly using e-cigarette products, with most of the patients reported vaping both nicotine and THC, the marijuana compound that creates a high.

The Trump administration is planning to ban flavored e-cigarettes to deter teens from using vaping products. And the Centers for Disease Control and Protection on Monday announced it activated its emergency operations center to investigate the hundreds of cases of lung illnesses.

Health officials are unsure about what's causing the illnesses but have pointed to vitamin E oil, which is dangerous when inhaled. Advocates of regulation say it would help users know what is contained in the vaping products.

"The more you regulate this area and the less you ignore it, it's bad for criminals, better for public safety," Linton said in a "Squawk Box" interview.

Some states allow these products to be sold, but they're not regulated by the Food and Drug Administration since they're not nicotine vaping products derived from tobacco. That's making room for a gap in oversight, former FDA Commissioner Dr. Scott Gottlieb told CNBC last week.

"These are falling within a regulatory gap. People who are vaping nicotine and having these reactions probably are vaping illegal products that are counterfeit," said Gottlieb, a CNBC contributor. "We have to have a federal reckoning here."