The U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency will now accept vaping products, in addition to unwanted prescription drugs, during its upcoming national drug take-back event.

On Saturday between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. at dozens of local police departments, anyone can dispose of e-cigarette cartridges or e-cigarette devices, in addition to any unusued, expired or unwanted prescription drugs, the drug agency said in a statement Tuesday. The take-back will not accept devices that contain lithium batteries.

Police in Portland, South Portland Westbrook, Falmouth, Cumberland, Windham, Scarborough and in many other surrounding communities are participating.

Locations can be found at takebackday.dea.gov.

The move follows a string of deaths and hundreds of reported lung illnesses linked to e-cigarette products throughout the country, including five reported illnesses in Maine.

Nationally, 33 people have died in two dozen states, and 1,479 more have been sickened or suffered lung injuries connected to the use of e-cigarette type cartridges. Some of those who fell ill used cartridges that contained THC, the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which last reported illnesses and injuries Oct. 15.

“We do know that THC is present in most of the samples tested by (the Food and Drug Administration) to date, and most patients report a history of using THC-containing products,” the CDC said on an information page about the outbreak of vaping-related illnesses.

The CDC recommends people avoid vape cartridges that contain THC and are obtained informally from friends, family or on the street through illicit dealers.

Until regulators and doctors can learn more about what causes the lung illnesses, the CDC recommends stopping all use of e-cigarette products.

The deaths and illnesses have also prompted corrective action by state politicians around the country.

Gov. Janet Mills said this month that she is exploring all options on how to respond to the illnesses, including whether to issue a warning or an outright ban. Mills said her office is working with the state attorney general to also increase compliance checks on businesses that sell e-cigarette products to ensure the devices are not being sold to children or adults under the age of 21.

In Massachusetts, Gov. Charlie Baker placed a temporary moratorium on the sale of all e-cigarette and vape products until January 2020, prompting a lawsuit challenging it. A judge ruled Tuesday that the ban can stand for now, but Massachusetts legislators must fix state laws quickly to reflect the new policy.

New York, Rhode Island and Michigan have announced bans on flavored vape products, and other states are considering similar moves.

 


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