Hennepin County to accept vaping devices during Drug Take Back Day

The Hennepin County Sheriff's Office announced they will accept vaping devices for the first time during next weekend's Drug Take Back Day.

The sheriff's office, along with several others across the state, regularly hosts Drug Take Back Day in an effort to keep unwanted medications from ending up in the wrong hands. This time, however, they'll also accept vaping devices.

The event will take place from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 26. Drop-off sites can be found at the Cub Foods in Rogers, Jubilee Foods in Mound, and the Cub Foods at The Quarry in Minneapolis.

"Our goal is to help people and make sure they don't die," said Sheriff Dave Hutchinson. "It's not to enforce any laws, or make people look out of place or dumb, our goal is to help people." 

Health officials across the country have been warning the public after several patients fell ill or died after vaping certain products. At least 33 people have died from illnesses related to vaping, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced Thursday.

In addition to the death toll rising, the number of people reporting vaping-related illnesses has risen to 1,479. 

The CDC first began reporting on the outbreak in March. Since then, 49 states and one U.S. territory have reported cases. The only state that has not seen one is Alaska. The majority of the cases are people in their teens into their early 30s, according to the CDC.

In most cases, people said they used vaping products that contained THC, the mind-altering chemical compound found in marijuana. Still, no single ingredient or product has been linked to the illnesses. 

Officials in New York said in early September that they were looking into vitamin E acetate as a potential case because “very high levels” were found in cannabis vape products submitted by patients. While vitamin E acetate is harmless to people who ingest it as a dietary supplement or ointment, the department is looking into the effects it has once it’s inhaled as vapor from an oil-like substance.

Businesses in Minnesota are feeling the effects of law enforcement's campaign to highlight the dangers of vaping. 

"I'm getting less new people in because the message is getting sent to smokers that all vaping is bad," said Mark Bartholomew, of Smokeless Vapor Lounge General Manager. 

He said he knows of at least 100 people who have not only quit smoking, but dropped nicotine altogether because of vaping. 

"We want people to be nicotine-free eventually and this has made it easier than ever to do it," Bartholomew added. 

He now puts cards in all devices to warn against illegal THC cartridges bought on the street, as illict THC vaping has been connected to the outbreak of severe lung injuries, including one vaping death in Minnesota. Almost all who have reported severe lung injuries had a history of vaping illegal cannabis produvcts.