CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas — In its 18 years of existence, the Drug Enforcement Administration's Drug Take Back Day has collected 12 million pounds of unwanted prescription pills and disposed of them properly. On Saturday, in response to concerns about vaping-related lung illnesses and deaths, the collection event will be expanded.
"This year we are accepting vaping devices and e-cigarettes," DEA Special Agent Sammy Parks said.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports 36 deaths from 1,604 cases of vaping-related lung illnesses. The vaping industry is also under fire for allegedly marketing their products towards children. The DEA hopes the change to Take Back Day combats both of those issues.
"We simply want to give, maybe a parent the opportunity, if they find a device in their home that's unwanted, a safe place to dispose of this device," Parks said.
The vast majority of vaping-related lung illnesses involve vape products that contain THC, the psychoactive chemical in marijuana. Local vape shops don't think that part of the story is getting enough attention. Since marijuana is illegal in Texas, they say the THC-laced vape products are of poor quality and likely to blame for the illnesses.
"It's not a good thing," Rene Yanez, owner of Pipin Vapes, said. "Those fake (vape fluid) cartridges is what I really believe is the culprit to the illnesses around."
Yanez's shop at Nile Drive and McArdle Road in Corpus Christi only sells vape fluid from major manufacturers. He says his business has taken a hit since the first reports of vaping-related illnesses.
"I have seen quite a percentage drop as far as sales," Yanez said.
He hopes people don't surrender their vapes and vaping products at Saturday's Take Back Day. The DEA is pulling for the contrary.
"The reason behind this -- there has been concerns throughout the United States about the deaths and illnesses associated with vaping devices," Parks said.
The DEA Drug Take Back Day runs from 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. on Saturday. Click here to find out a location near you.