CANFIELD, Ohio (WKBN) – As the number of vaping deaths and illnesses continues to rise, Ohio Governor Mike DeWine and President Donald Trump are both looking into banning flavored e-cigarette products, claiming they are meant to attract children.
But, one local vape shop owner says banning the flavors will only make the problem worse.
“It just seemed kind of weird that vaping has been around for 10 years now, and all of a sudden there’s a sudden outbreak,” said Nick Katsourakis.
Katsourakis started vaping eight years ago and is part owner of Rocco’s Vape Lounge in Canfield.
He says it’s not the flavoring that’s causing these illnesses, but the illegal mixing of the juices.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, based on initial data from certain states, most patients reported a history of using e-cigarette products containing THC.
Now, Katsourakis is worried that banning flavors could hurt customers.
“The main thing we were really afraid of was our customers simply stopping vaping completely and possibly returning back to traditional, combustible cigarettes,” he said.
He says banning the juices would just add a new problem.
“Now, you’re creating an e-liquid black market and who knows what they could be adding to that,” Katsourakis said. “We’ve all seen that prohibition does not work — banning of something does not work. It creates a black market… and a potentially dangerous black market.”
While there is a tobacco and menthol flavor, the fear is it may drive people back to cigarettes or chewing tobacco.
“You’re tasting tobacco and you’re going to get reminded of the taste and, ‘Hey, I can’t vape my flavors anymore, I’m just going to go back to tobacco,'” said Michael Dicioccio, who has been vaping for three years.
Katsourakis says he is open to the idea of vaping being more regulated. He has a number of ideas but one is limiting purchases.
“Limiting the number of products that could be sold at one time. So you don’t have some 21-year-old coming in, buying 20 packs of something and selling them to the kids. I think limiting one to two would be a huge step,” he said.
The number of people with vaping related illnesses across the country now stands at 530, which is up 150 over the last week.
The Ohio Department of Health says 17 people have been hospitalized in the Buckeye state — 11 are male and six female, ranging in age from 16 to 64.
There are also 22 illnesses that have not yet been confirmed as caused by vaping.
There are no cases in Mahoning, Trumbull or Columbiana counties. The nearest cases are in Portage, Summit and Cuyahoga counties.