Heartland vape shop owner discusses concerns following vaping death

Illinois Department of Health urges caution

Health officials, shop owners discuss vaping concerns

ANNA, Ill. (KFVS) - The Illinois Department of Health is urging people to use caution with all e-cigarettes and vaping products.

Currently, the Center for Disease Control received nearly 200 potential cases of severe lung illness from 22 states, including one death in Illinois. On Friday, the Illinois Department of Public Health learned that person that died, had hospitalized with severe respiratory illness and had been vaping.

Owner of 618 VAPE, Jason Smith, has had both locations in Carbondale and Anna for five years.

“I’ve been doing this since 2014, we’ve never had anybody get hurt, or anybody had to go to the emergency room because they vaped too much,” he said.

On the wall in his Anna shop is hundreds of names of smokers that quit smoking, all thanks to vaping.

“I got into the industry and it was about helping people quit smoking, it wasn’t about helping people get addicted to something or even getting sick from something they know nothing about," he said.

Due to his expertise, Smith questioned the device the person who died used.

“How? Why? What were the circumstances? What was the age? Who were they? Where were they from? What was the demographic area? All of it. It all went through my mind because I wanted to understand how this happened,” Smith said.

In Illinois, state and federal health officials are investigating 22 hospitalizations linked to vaping.

IDPH Spokesperson Melanie Arnold said, “In some cases, patients have acknowledged to health care personnel recent use of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC)-containing products.”

However, because the investigators have not identified any specific product or compound that is linked to all cases, there is not a conclusive link to all vaping.

Smith is hopeful health officials get to the bottom of this quickly, and he said most of all, he just wants to make sure people are aware and educated of the products and devices they use.

“It hurt me, it hurt my heart a lot," Smith said. "Because we were always able to say there were never any deaths due to vaping and now in Illinois, the state that I live in and have two shops in, there is one case of it.”

No cases have yet to be reported in any of the southern Illinois counties. That investigation is still ongoing.

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