If you're looking to put down your vape pen for good, the United States government can help.
On Saturday, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, or DEA, will host drop-off zones around Minnesota where people can leave vaping equipment to be incinerated. That includes vaping devices and oils — legally or illicitly obtained.
It's part of the DEA's "Take Back Day," an annual event that asks people around the country to rid their medicine cabinets of unwanted or unused prescription pills to be destroyed, as one form of cutting down on pill abuse. This is the first time the event is also accepting vaping equipment.
William Stockmann, diversion program manager for the DEA, said federal agents have been working with the Department of Health to address the "growing and troubling trend" of vaping.
"Vaping is not considered to be safe for teens and for young adults," said Stockmann. "We're trying to get these vape pens or e-cigarettes off the street and out of the hands of the teens in a safe way."
Vaping is not necessarily illegal. In Minnesota, people over the age of 18, or 21 in some cities, can buy vape pens or Juul pods at tobacco shops, along with nicotine-based oils. Yet recent medical evidence linking vaping to lung injury has generated new scrutiny over the safety of these devices, causing some to turn away from vaping products. As of last week, health officials say they've linked three deaths in Minnesota to vaping.
Drug enforcement agents do also see illegal forms of vaping, including cases of methamphetamine-based oil, Stockmann said. The agency will accept all forms on Saturday, he said, and all drop-offs are anonymous.
The DEA will host 5,250 drop-off sites across the country, open from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. More than a dozen of these are set for around the Twin Cities, including Cub Foods at the Quarry Shopping Center in northeast Minneapolis, the First and Fifth precincts of the Minneapolis Police Department and the Mendota Heights Police Department headquarters. There are several sites in the Duluth-Superior area and others are sprinkled throughout greater Minnesota. A full list of drop-off zones can be found at takebackday.dea.gov/.
The DEA won't accept lithium ion batteries for vape pens, Stockmann said.