The rise of illnesses and even deaths related to vaping are mainly connected to illegal products and harmful ingredients, said SCS Vape marketing director Jaclyn Ray.

Almost all of the recent cases – as many as 90%, Ray said – are related to illegal THC cartridges being made on the black market containing dangerous ingredients such as Vitamin E acetate, something not present in any product sold by any legitimate vape shop.

“None of these illnesses or deaths are at all related to products coming from legitimate, safe vape shops like ours,” she said. “People aren’t reading beyond the headlines and are jumping to conclusions.”

Ray said the recent news has made customers scared and has left the vape shop’s three storefronts fairly quiet.

“It’s caused a panic,” she said. “And what’s disappointing, is that for the years vaping has been around, there have been zero deaths until this summer, and states are making these moves without taking the time to figure out the facts.”

Moreover, cigarette smoking is responsible for more than 480,000 deaths a year in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The recent outcry over vaping is “horrible,” Ray said, because it’s leading people away from vaping and back to smoking.

“People are seriously recommending their loved ones go back to smoking,” she said. “It’s crazy.”

Ray said she smoked a pack of cigarettes a day starting when she was 16 years old for years, and vaping was the only thing that helped her quit.

“I tried going cold turkey, I tried patches, I tried everything, but vaping was the only thing that worked,” she said. “And most of our customers have very similar stories.”

Mission Valley resident Ashley Morris said vaping has been “100% a positive thing” in her life. She said she smoked for about 15 years, and just this spring, vaping helped her quit.

She said she hasn’t stopped vaping because, like Ray, she believes that all of the recent illnesses have been related to black market, unsafe products, and there is “nothing to be afraid of.” She said eventually she hopes to wean herself off vaping, too.

“Ultimately anything that you do is probably going to kill you, even foods and drinks and everything in life,” she said. “Just because people are trying to shut down the vaping world does not mean there is any reason for it.”

Ray said she hopes the public knows as long as they are buying products in a safe, reputable vape shop, there is “absolutely nothing to worry about.”

“We are dedicated and feel so strongly about helping people,” she said. “If vaping were to get banned, cigarette usage would go back up, which is worse, so there should not be any drastic decisions without the facts.”

Morgan Theophil covers local government for the Victoria Advocate. She can be reached at 361-580-6511, or on Twitter.

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