Vape store owner gives his perspective about vaping deaths

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Local vape shop owner Theseus Mendiola offers his perspective on the current vaping medical scare.

Last week, the Centers for Disease Control and the Food and Drug Administration announced that they are working with clinical and public health partners to investigate a multi-state outbreak of severe pulmonary disease associated with e-cigarette products.

The latest information indicates that as of Sept. 6, over 450 possible cases of lung illness was related to the use of e-cigarettes. The numbers prompted PNC to take a closer look and a sit-down with local vape business owner Theseus Mendiola who wants to set the record straight on this medical scare.

Five deaths have been confirmed in California, Illinois, Indiana, Minnesota and Oregon, reportedly because of vaping. A release from the CDC indicated that there was no evidence of infectious disease, therefore lung illness are likely associated with chemical exposure. Pointing to a common link, the patients reported e-cigarette use and also exhibited similar symptoms and clinical findings.

Vape Escape owner Theseus Mendiola shares that the deaths have created a scare in the vaping community.

“Initially, most media covers that went out kind of set it up to where it was vaping in general. They didn’t provide any details so it created kind of a hysteria. We had customers coming in and asking about it,” Mendiola said.

So he and his team did some research, and discovered that the deaths had a common link, the e-cigarettes contained cannabinoid products such as THC or CBD.

“We found out that the FDA actually found that it was the THC cartridges in the black market cartridges. This kind of stuff you can actually buy empty cartridges and boxing, and packaging online on Amazon, eBay and a lot of these black market individuals that sell this, make their own concoction, you don’t know what you’re buying, one of them is called DANK Vapes,” Mendiola said.

As with all drugs on the black market, there is inherent risks associated, but what’s the difference between what’s sold in the stores versus on the streets?

“I would say to all consumers to question what you are buying. Is it coming from a reputable source. A lot of our CBD products actually have lab reports. If you are buying from somebody that doesn’t have lab reports, take precaution. So what they found out in most of these devices with the deaths is it had Vitamin E acetate which is an oil base,” Mendiola said.

A report from the FDA states, that many of the samples tested have identified tetrahydrocannabinol or THC and also contained significant amounts of Vitamin E acetate, a substance present in topical consumer products or dietary supplements.

With limited data on the effects of inhaling Vitamin E, the FDA states: “While the FDA does not have enough data presently to conclude that Vitamin E acetate is the cause of the lung injury in these cases, the agency believes it is prudent to avoid inhaling this substance. Because consumers cannot be sure whether any THC vaping products may contain Vitamin E acetate, consumers are urged to avoid buying vaping products on the street, and to refrain from using THC oil or modifying/adding any substances to products purchased in stores.”

The report goes on to confirm that at least one of the deaths publicly disclosed appears to be related to illicit THC vaping products.

But with vaping being a fairly new form of smoking, the FDA does acknowledge that more information is needed to better understand whether there’s a relationship between any specific product or substances and the reported illnesses.

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Jolene Toves
Jolene joined the PNC team in 2017, as a producer, co-anchor and investigative reporter covering law enforcement, courts and crimes. Notable coverage includes the Ehlert case, the Mark Torre Jr. trial, the Allan Agababa trial, exclusive pieces on the Life of a Drug Dealer/Addict, and Life behind bars...the story of Honofre Chargualaf and Kevin Cruz. In 2019, she was promoted to Assistant News Director and Lead Anchor. From 2015 to 2017 she served as Public Relations and Promotions Manager, for the Hotel Nikko Guam handling local radio and advertorial promotions, as well as produced and directed tv commercials for the hotel. Prior to this she worked with KUAM for three years as a reporter and segment host. She began her journalism career in 2012, working with Glimpses of Guam contributing to the Guam Business Magazine, R&R magazine, MDM magazine and the Marianas Business Journal.