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As kids went back to school in the fall of 2019, parents, educators, public health experts and lawmakers were growing more concerned by the day. A string of “e-cigarette or vaping product use-associated lung injuries,” or EVALI, was appearing across the United States, and no one—not even the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)—had a handle on what was happening.

Eventually, in November, the CDC belatedly identified a “very strong culprit”: vitamin E acetate, a compound that had been found as an adulterant in illicitly manufactured THC cartridges. That is, not nicotine vaping products. [...]