Legislators try to combat youth vaping epidemic

Legislators try to combat youth vaping epidemic

Author: The PLS Reporter/Friday, January 11, 2019/Categories: News and Views

Teens across the nation can be seen surrounded by clouds of vapor made to taste and smell like their favorite fruit, candy, dessert or even beverage. Legislators in Pennsylvania are attempting to stop what the federal Food and Drug Administration declares an epidemic.

“These products have been marketed as innovative and cool to teens, but in reality they are anything but,” Department of Health Press Secretary Nate Wardle said in an email. “Another concern is that many adults, whether parents, caregivers, teachers, etc., don’t realize that what looks like a flash drive could actually be an electronic smoking device.”

Electronic Nicotine Delivery Systems (ENDS) or e-cigarettes such as Juuls, are increasingly being used by teenagers with reports including use in school classrooms and bathrooms. The devices are even mistaken for a USB flash drive.

FDA data shows e-cigarette use increased 78 percent among high schoolers and 48 percent among middle schoolers in 2018.

The Department of Health noted that these devices are very dangerous for teens because they contain nicotine, which is highly addictive, particularly for adolescent brains. Federal law prohibits the sale of e-cigarettes to any person under the age of 18, but state legislators are looking to enforce that further.

“From what I have read, companies have been assuring Congress and the FDA that they will curb selling products to minors, but we know that minors are still purchasing the products,” Rep. Kathy Rapp (R-Warren) stated.

Rapp, chairman of the House Health Committee, is introducing legislation amending the Crimes Code by adding ENDS to the sections that make it illegal to sell tobacco products to minors.

She said her only goal with this legislation is to prohibit the sale to minors and it would not affect adults. Rapp noted there is research that suggests it is dangerous for youth to be inhaling as it can harm brain development and the long term effects of the chemicals in e-liquids are unknown.

Similarly, Rep. Steve McCarter (D-Montgomery) is introducing legislation that would prohibit the sale of e-cigarettes anyone under the age of 21.

“With everybody from the Surgeon General giving warnings outs about flavored e-cigarettes and the impact it is having on children, we need to look at this carefully and up the age limit from 18 to 21 to give time for everyone to respond,” McCarter said.

He added that advertising is attempting to make e-cigarettes look cool, similar to what was seen by the cigarette industry’s marketing. He said the industry can deny that but what they give is flavors and packaging that teens are used to using.

Also supporting a change to protect teens, Sen. Lisa Baker (R-Luzerne) is circulating a cosponsor memorandum amending Title 18 to prohibit the sale of ENDS and alternative nicotine products to minors and prohibits the use of these products in schools.

“With the rising cost of cigarettes and the continuing crackdown aimed at preventing minors from getting tobacco products, it is not surprising that kids are being drawn to an alternative that is accessible, trendy, and falsely believed to be without health risk,” Baker said.

She commented the products are too new to have research on the effects and consequences of use but since they do contain nicotine, users presumably suffer the risks of that substance.

Though the Department of Health could not comment on pending legislation, it “welcomes all efforts to help assist in addressing the major concerns that are associated with teen use of e-cigarettes and other ENDS.”

Story by PLS Staff Writer Jessica Richardson.