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Washington’s first vaping lawsuit filed by Pierce County cop

Vaping continues to cause problems in Washington State. (AP Photo/Robert F. Bukaty, File)

Charles Wilcoxen,who served in the Army’s Special Forces and works as a police officer for the Puyallup Tribe is normally, in the words of former Pierce County Prosecutor Mark Lindquist, “the picture of health and fitness.” But now, he is suffering from what appears to be severe pneumonia, an illness so serious that he spent three days in the hospital after struggling to breathe.

What changed in Wilcoxen’s life to give him such terrible lung problems? Eighteen months ago, he picked up a vape pen.

According to doctors, Wilcoxen’s inhalation of THC — the compound in marijuana that causes a high — through regular vaping over the past year-and-a-half contributed to his current respiratory issues.

Vaping is when a person inhales a marijuana oil or nicotine solution through a battery-powered vape pen.

Fourth illness linked to vaping confirmed in Washington state

On Wilcoxen’s behalf and through law firm The Herrmann Group, Lindquist is now suing the manufacturers of the vape pen as well as the vape cartridges that Wilcoxen used.

“Marijuana has become as mainstream as beer and bourbon these days,” Lindquist told KIRO Radio’s Dori Monson. “We regulate beer, we regulate bourbon, we regulate almost everything that we consume, and so marijuana ought to be regulated in the same way … we regulate products to make people safer.”

However, he said, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration does not regulate marijuana because it is still federally illegal. This creates a kind of loophole in which the marijuana industry is able to run free.

“Because it’s an industry that millions of Americans rely upon, we do need to have regulations, we need to have a safe product,” he said.

Across the nation, hundreds of respiratory illnesses and several deaths have been linked to vaping, according to the Center for Disease Control.

It is unknown if Wilcoxen will have any long-term complications from the illness, but Lindquist pointed out that the police officer has already incurred quite a few financial costs from his hospital stay, as well as from missing work. Wilcoxen is going back to work, but only part-time. Because of this, the suit seeks damages, in addition to stricter regulations on vape products.

“He brought all of these products from stores — none of this is black market, it’s available to consumers all over the state … you ought to be able to count on it being a safe product,” Lindquist said.

Listen to the Dori Monson Show weekday afternoons from 12-3 p.m. on KIRO Radio, 97.3 FM. Subscribe to the podcast here.

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