Vaping devices, cartridges now accepted at drug ‘take back’ day

In an effort to combat the e-cigarette craze, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration will accept vaping devices and cartridges during its take-back program Saturday.

It’s a small step the DEA hopes will help curtail the rise of illnesses associated with vaping, blamed for at least two deaths in Georgia. And it’s the latest move to target the e-cigarette products and companies under scrutiny and accused of targeting young people.

PAST COVERAGE: FDA launches crackdown on vaping industry

Saturday is National Prescription Drug Take Back day, a program that began 10 years ago to get unneeded prescription drugs off the streets. More than 6,000 sites across the U.S. will collect drugs in addition to vaping devices.

“We encourage everyone to let us help dispose of their unused and unwanted medications so that they don’t end up being diverted for unintended purposes – like ending up in the school yard, watersheds or being sold on the street,” Special Agent in Charge Richard Salter Jr. said in a press release. 

Some metro Atlanta police agencies were unaware that vaping products would be included.

Marietta police Lt. Michael Goins, who collects unwanted drugs for his agency, learned about the change Friday. Otherwise, Goins said he may have turned away those wishing to safely dispose of the devices. His agency is one, like others in the metro area, that has a drop box available 24 hours a day, every day.

“Our box is full all the time,” Goins said. 

More than 11 million pounds of drugs have been taken off the streets since the “take back” program began 10 years ago, the DEA says.

On Saturday, the 18th "take back" day will be held from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at various locations around the metro area. Those wanting to drop off drugs can find their closest location online or by calling 1-800-882-9539. The service is free and anonymous.

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For 24/7, a disposal box for RX medicines is available in the Marietta Police Department, 240 Lemon St., Marietta. Three locations will be available from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Oct. 26 in Cobb and Marietta on DEA National RX Take Back Day. (Courtesy of Marietta)

For 24/7, a disposal box for RX medicines is available in the Marietta Police Department, 240 Lemon St., Marietta. Three locations will be available from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Oct. 26 in Cobb and Marietta on DEA National RX Take Back Day. (Courtesy of Marietta)

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For 24/7, a disposal box for RX medicines is available in the Marietta Police Department, 240 Lemon St., Marietta. Three locations will be available from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Oct. 26 in Cobb and Marietta on DEA National RX Take Back Day. (Courtesy of Marietta)

Collecting vaping devices could be a potential safety hazard, according to Capt. Jay Baker with the Cherokee County Sheriff’s Office. That’s because the devices contain batteries.

The DEA says it cannot accept devices containing lithium ion batteries, and the batteries must be removed before drop-off.

“If batteries cannot be removed prior to drop-off, DEA encourages individuals to consult with stores that recycle lithium ion batteries,” the DEA says on its website. 

Others items not generally accepted include needles or other sharps, asthma inhalers, mercury thermometers and i

llicit drugs or substances. 

Still, experts agree the having a place where vaping devices can be dropped off and not end up in someone else’s hands is a small step toward preventing deaths and illnesses.

In Georgia, the number of people hospitalized due to vaping-related illnesses continues to rise and at least two deaths have been reported. The Atlanta-based Centers for Disease Control is investigating more than 1,000 cases of vaping illnesses nationwide. In recent weeks, Juul, the best-selling e-cigarette brand in the U.S., voluntarily stopped selling fruit and desert flavors, the Associated Press reported.  The company is also being sued by adults and underage Juul users who claim they became addicted to nicotine through the company's products.

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Cobb law enforcement push drug take-back program