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Grundy County Health Department warns of vaping epidemic, despite pushback from Morris vape shop

The owners of a Morris vape shop are disputing the concerns for vaping raised by the Grundy County Health Department.

Cindy Donahue, a nurse for the Grundy County Health Department, said the health department equates the concerns raised for vaping to an epidemic.

“We view it, of course, as a problem” she said. “A lot of it is lack of knowledge or education on what exactly vaping is, the products that’s used, what’s in them, and the damage that it does.”

Donahue turned to reference reports published by the Center for Disease and Control showing more than 2,000 cases of lung injuries and 40 deaths.

The Grundy County Health Department has not reported any cases of its own, officials said.

Tiffany Smith, a co-owner of I-80 Vapors, said she is critical of the backlash the vaping industry has received in recent months.

“They are definitely overblown,” she said, referring to concerns raised for vaping. “We are not supportive of Juul. Juul is owned by Altria [Group,] which is a tobacco manufacturer. We are a vape shop, and we don’t want to be associated with tobacco products.”

Smith said the lung illnesses developed among those who used illegal products bought on the black market.

“The CDC has recently came out stating 100% of all of the cases have been related to illegal THC pens that have vitamin E acetate in them,” she said. “None of the traditional vape juices contain vitamin E acetate.”

Donahue negated the idea of the vaping epidemic being overblown.

“I think that it happened so quickly, and it was so startling,” she said. “There were so many injuries. It wasn’t one particular brand. It wasn’t necessarily the THC or nicotine. It was a little bit of both. When it came down to it, the evidence is showing that the vitamin E acetate that‘s found in many of the products is showing that that is the problem.”

Donahue has taken to the community in recent months to educate people of the risks and hazards to vaping.

Presentations have been held at the high schools in the area to provide people with information on what to look for and start conversations on vaping.

“We’re not going to give them scare tactics and preach to them not to do it,” Donahue said. “We’re going to give them the how’s, the why’s, what can happen, and give them that choice. It’s an adult choice that you’re making to vape.”