Vaping products added for first time to national drug take-back day

Vaping devices and cartridges will be accepted for the first time at the thousands of participating sites, including eight in Wichita, during Saturday’s National Drug Take Back Day.

The DEA, which sponsors the event, announced this week that the event would take vaping devices and cartridges for the first time. Devices with lithium batteries can’t be dropped at the sites. The announcement comes in the wake of a national uproar against deaths and illnesses from vaping. Vaping proponents say those illnesses come from vaping bootleg products.

The drug take back day started as a way for people to safely rid of expired and unwanted medication. It was aimed at targeting opioid prescriptions that law enforcement say often went from medicine cabinets and into the hands of addicts, spurring the opioid epidemic.

The vape problem is recent.

The Centers for Disease Control reports more than 1,470 lung-related injuries associated with e-cigarettes or vaping products and 33 deaths in 24 states as of Oct. 15.

“The latest national and state findings suggest products containing THC, particularly those obtained off the street or from other informal sources (e.g. friends, family members, illicit dealers), are linked to most of the cases and play a major role in the outbreak,” the CDC wrote.

In Kansas, two people have died from a vaping-related illness and at least 10 have been hospitalized. Kansas school districts have even joined the fight by entering lawsuits against vaping companies.

“The public is welcome to dispose safely of vaping devices and liquids to get these products off our streets and out of the hands of children,” U.S. Attorney Stephen McAllister said in a press release.

The National Drug Take Back Day occurs twice a year. Sites across the country can be found at takebackday.dea.gov and will be open from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. There are eight locations in Wichita:

Dillons, 9450 E. Harry

Household Hazardous Waste facility, 801 W. Stillwell

Oaklawn Activity Center, 4900 S. Clifton

Sedgwick County Zoo, 5500 W. Zoo Boulevard

Walmart, 501 E. Pawnee

Walmart, 3030 N. Rock

Walmart, 11411 E. Kellogg

Walmart, 10600 W. 21st St.

DEA figures from the April 2019 take back day showed: 6,258 sites, 4,969 law enforcement agencies participating and 937,443 pounds of prescription drugs collected.

Michael Stavola covers breaking news at The Wichita Eagle. He’s won a national and several state awards during his five years of working at newspapers in Kansas. He plans to finish his MBA at Wichita State University in spring 2020. Michael likes to exercise, hunt and spend time with his wife and their dog, Marley.