GRAY, Tenn. (WJHL) — Even though David Nelson has warning signs posted inside and outside of his stores, Rocky Top Vapor, across the region, he worries it’s not enough to stop people from using black market products.
“Vaping is a verb, it’s an action,” Nelson said. “What they’re actually vaping is the more important question because that’s the whole thing that is not being asked right now.”
With Tennessee’s first lung-related illness death being reported and Juul pulling all flavors of pods- except mint and tobacco from store shelves- Rocky Top Vapors owner David Nelson is calling for more action with the products.
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“There’s plenty of ways to address the teen issue short of prohibition of all flavors – raising the age to 21, marketing standards, having a nicotine cap at 20 milligrams because that will prevent the head rush that the teens are actually looking for,” said Nelson.
He not only owns the vape shop chain in the Tri-Cities, but is also a part of several advocacy groups to lobby on behalf of e-cigarette use. He says it’s what’s not regulated by the FDA that should have people concerned.
“The vitamin E acetate – it’s the other cutting agents that they’re putting in the cartridges that are made primarily of oils and you can’t vape oils,” says Nelson.
Sullivan County Regional Health Department’s Regional Medical Director says the illnesses he sees come from oils.
“It’s the same type of pneumonia that we see when oils get into the lung,” said Dr. Stephen May.
Dr. May also says this is happening more in young people.
“We see long-term changes and chronic problems. With this we’re seeing acute illness in very young people, damaging the lungs and causing respiratory failure,” says May.
Thats a group Nelson says he doesn’t particularly cater to.
“Our biggest group of people that we sell to is between 25 and 35 but most of these illnesses are 18-24 year olds,” says Nelson.
Nelson also fears that his customers will revert to unsafe products because of misinformation.
“What we have seen in our stores is that a lot of people moved away from e-liquid nicotine containing e-liquid and have either transitioned back to smoking or they actually continue to use THC products because they’re misinformed about what exactly is causing the lung illness,” says Nelson.
Tennessee’s first vaping-related illness was caused by an illicit THC vaping cartridge but the CDC is still warning against the use of the product in any form.