Vape Crisis is Here & Now

The nationwide vaping health crisis hit home recently when Arizona’s first cases of a mysterious vaping illness were reported, just days after detectives arrested two men in a Tramonto home for allegedly manufacturing potentially dangerous vape cartridges with kid-friendly packaging. Meanwhile, local schools are increasing efforts to help kids stop vaping.

On Sept. 12, detectives found $380,000 worth of cash, firearms, marijuana and vape cartridges in the Tramonto home, along with THC extract, the feel-good chemical in pot. “This is not the first arrest relating to vaping cartridges, however this has been one of the largest so far,” Maricopa County Sheriff’s Department Sgt. Calbert Gillett told In&Out.

MCSO said the manufacturing setup was of the same type that’s been implicated in a nationwide outbreak of mysterious vaping illnesses, which has sickened hundreds of youth and adults as old as 65, and killed at least seven people across 36 states in recent weeks.


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“Based on the equipment and the products located inside the residence, detectives believe this location was an apparent… manufacturing lab,” MCSO said in a statement. The 23-year-old suspects, Tucker Reece and Kolby Stevens, were arrested without incident.

MCSO seized 300 pounds of marijuana, 1,100 vape cartridges, guns and manufacturing equipment. PHOTOS COURTESY MCSO

Dangerous & Mysterious

Meanwhile, the Arizona Department of Health Services (ADHS) announced the first three cases of vape-related respiratory illness in Arizona. Symptoms include cough, shortness of breath, chest pain, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, fatigue, fever, or weight loss.

Health officials don’t know the exact cause, but it involves vaping products containing nicotine and cannabinoids, which are extracted from marijuana. Homemade vape cartridges may be at least partly to blame, but researchers haven’t ruled out commercially available e-cigs. 

Until the cause is pinned down, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is warning people to “consider not using e-cigarette products.”

Popularity Soars

Vaping among U.S. teens doubled the past two years, according to new National Institute on Drug Abuse data.

“With 25 percent of 12th graders, 20 percent of 10th graders and 9 percent of 8th graders now vaping nicotine within the past month, the use of these devices has become a public health crisis,” said NIDA Director Nora Volkow. “These products introduce the highly addictive chemical nicotine to these young people and their developing brains, and I fear we are only beginning to learn the possible health risks and outcomes for youth.”

Vaping is common among high school students and middle-schoolers in the Deer Valley Unified School District, as In&Out Magazine reported last year [See "Crackdown on Vaping,” In&Out Magazine, Nov. 1, 2018.] 

“We believe it’s still a problem,” district spokesperson Monica Allread told In&Out, but new data are not yet available. Now if a student is caught vaping or with vaping products, a 10-day suspension can be reduced if the student takes a “vaping diversion class” to help them kick the habit, Allread said.

“It’s important that parents are talking to their children about the dangers associated with vape so they do not use these products,” said ADHS Director Cara Christ.

Among the products seized in Tramonto: kid-friendly packaging. Images: MCSO

Is Any Vaping Safe?

Unlike traditional cigarettes smoke, e-cigs create an aerosol, or vapor, that delivers cancer-causing chemicals, lead, nickel and tiny particles that reach deep into the lungs, research shows

Vaping reduces blood flow to arteries, potentially raising the risk of atherosclerosis, a hardening and narrowing of arteries that can lead to stroke or heart attack, a new study found.

Other research shows the vapor irritates and inflames the lungs in ways similar to asthma and kills the immune system’s protective white blood cells.

But research has barely begun, so nobody knows the long-term effects.


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Robert Roy Britt
NoPho resident Robert Roy Britt has written for In&Out publications since its inception in 2005. Britt began his journalism career in New Jersey newspapers in the early 1990s. He later became a science writer and was editor-in-chief of the online media sites Space.com and Live Science. He has written four novels. Email the author.
Robert Roy Britt on Email

Robert Roy Britt

NoPho resident Robert Roy Britt has written for In&Out publications since its inception in 2005. Britt began his journalism career in New Jersey newspapers in the early 1990s. He later became a science writer and was editor-in-chief of the online media sites Space.com and Live Science. He has written four novels. Email the author.

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