MIDDLEBURG HEIGHTS, Ohio — As the warnings about the dangers of vaping continue to grow louder each day, there is one group of people who say they’re not being heard – vape store owners. They also say, their products aren’t to blame for in recent illnesses.
The CDC is investigating 5 deaths and more than 450 respiratory illnesses all believed to be related to vaping. In Ohio specifically, there have been no deaths. But the state does have 10 confirmed cases related to vaping and 14 more under investigation.
All the cases have come in recent months. But local store owners say they’re not to blame.
RELATED: 6 Ohioans suffer ‘severe pulmonary illness’ after vaping: Health officials issue statewide alert
“We have never heard these stories before,” said Randy Burch who has owned and operated Euphoria Vapor in Middleburgh Heights since 2013.
He says the recent warnings to stop vaping altogether are sending the wrong message about the industry, as a whole. Instead, he believes there should be a larger focus on the black market.
“We need to let the public know that the products that these people are getting sick on, all the reports are coming towards THC products, black market items, stuff that’s bought online,” said Burch.
But the Ohio Department of Health tells a different story.
“This is killing our citizens and addicting our youth. And we’ve known these toxins are there,” said Dr. Amy Acton, Director of the Ohio Department of Health. “The science is trying to catch up with the industry.”
Acton adds that scientists are working to determine exactly what is causing people around the country to become ill after vaping. For now, they’re warning people to stay away from vaping products altogether. But this type of broad warning is exactly what Burch is referring to.
“We’re down 23-30 customers a day,” Burch said amid continuous warnings that seem to come every day. “Customers that have been coming in here for years.”
He says the FDA has been regulating the products on his shelves for years, and he wouldn’t be allowed to sale them if they weren’t safe.
“Anything from reputable vape store that is FDA approved, should be fine.”
In the meantime, the Ohio Department of Health (ODH) is beginning new initiatives to educate and prevent youth from vaping. A new law goes into effect October 17 that ups the legal age to vape in Ohio to 21.
The ODH is also earmarking $3.3 million for resources to help educate the community and curb vaping.