Saturday, Oct. 26, is National Prescription Drug Take Back Day, and for the first time the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) will be collecting vaping devices and products alongside expired prescriptions and dangerous medications, such as opioid painkillers.

“This year, we are taking a step further by accepting vaping devices and cartridges as we work with our federal partners to combat this emerging public health threat to the nation’s youth,” acting DEA Administrator Uttam Dhillon said in a statement.

The DEA indicates its decision to collect vape products this year was triggered by the ongoing outbreak of vaping related illnesses, which has sickened 1,604 people in every state except Alaska, plus the U.S. Virgin Islands and District of Columbia. Thirty-four deaths have been confirmed in 24 states as of Friday, Oct. 25.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) continues to work with state health officials to determine what is causing the vaping illnesses, which resemble severe forms of pneumonia in most cases. Although many of those sickened have reported vaping products with THC, they have been unable to pinpoint a common ingredient linking all the cases. Many victims have reported vaping nicotine products only.

The DEA also says that the soaring vaping rates among kids also factored into the inclusion of vape products in its Drug Take Back events. “In an effort to support a healthy lifestyle and energetic population, especially amongst America’s youth, DEA is committed to doing all it can to help safely dispose of vaping devices and substances,” Mr. Dhillon said.

Some experts praised the DEA’s decision to collect vapes and vape cartridges alongside opioids and other drugs because it sends a strong message about addictive substances.

Dr. Richard Blondell, vice chairman for addiction medicine at the University of Buffalo, told the Washington Times that the DEA collecting vaping products “may not have a lot of practical import, but it is something symbolic to let people know these devices can be taken back like any other drug.”

“These things are drugs and people don’t look at it that way,” Dr. Blondell said. “It is a good way to alter public perception and raise awareness.”

The DEA said it can’t accept vape devices with lithium-ion batteries inside.  If the batteries can’t be removed prior to drop-off, the DEA recommends that individuals consult with stores that recycle lithium-ion batteries.

To find where you can drop off your vaping device, prescription opioids, and expired medications, visit https://takebackday.dea.gov/.

Beasley Allen lawyers Joseph VanZandt and Sydney Everett, together with Mass Torts Section Head Andy Birchfield, are currently representing several individuals who are suing JUUL for the negative impact its products have had on their lives. On Oct. 7 they also filed lawsuits on behalf of school districts in three states, which seek to protect students and recover resources spent fighting the vaping epidemic.

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