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Young people might be turning to black market for vape products

PITTSBURGH — Every day, there seems to be a new headline about young people dying or in the hospital from illnesses related to vaping.

States are issuing outright bans on Juuls and vaping products. In Pennsylvania this past week, a vote was taken in the state legislature to increase the age limit for who can purchase these products.

>>RELATED STORY: Local teen says she was hospitalized with illness from vaping

But all those actions are not stopping people in our area from buying them.

"We're here to help people get off cigarettes, not kill them," Jimmy Anker said.

Anker owns Wicked Vapor in Verona. He said most of his customers are age 30 and over.

In Anker's opinion, the younger crowd whose users are getting sick aren't buying vape products in stores. Instead, they are getting black market products.

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Anker said it's not the actual act of vaping that's causing kids to get sick, it's where kids are getting the devices and what's in them that's the problem.

"It's stuff that people are making in their homes, people are making in non-clean labs, just anything illegal, basically," Anker said.

The CDC this month put out a warning to urge vapers to stop using vaporizers, cartridges and liquids sold on the street.

Pediatric pulmonologist Dr. Franziska Rosser, of UPMC Children's Hospital in Pittsburgh, said black market or store-bought, young people just need to stay away.

"We don't know the long-term effects of vaping of any product," Rosser said. "We don't know what this is going to do."

>>RELATED STORY: What we know (and don't) about Juul, teen vaping and illness

Rosser blames mass advertising and flavored liquids for making these products so attractive to high schoolers and middle schoolers.

"All e-cigarettes should have their flavor banned," Rosser said. "At a minimum, they should be regulated the same way that we regulate tobacco products."

Some states have done just that. New York and Michigan have taken steps to ban flavored e-liquids.

But Anker doesn't think that'll help. In fact, he thinks it'll make the problem even worse.

"What that flavor ban is going to create is a bigger black market for those black market products to come in and cause more deaths," Anker said.