As US authorities work to understand the spate of vaping-related lung illnesses, a small-town drug bust offers a closer look at the vast black market for vaping supplies.

The drug bust shattered the early morning stillness of this manicured subdivision in southeastern Wisconsin. The police pulled up outside a white-shuttered brick condo, jolting neighbours out of their beds with the thud of heavy banging on a door.

What they found inside was not crystal meth or cocaine or fentanyl but slim boxes of vaping cartridges labelled with flavours like strawberry and peaches and cream. An additional 98,000 cartridges lay empty.

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