Big strides are being made against the rapid spread of vape and e-cigarette products here and elsewhere in the United States.
June saw Texas take decisive action that will help limit underage access to vape and e-cigarette devices, while North Carolina took one of the biggest manufacturers to court over deceptive practices and won a large settlement this week.
On June 18, the Texas Legislature passed Senate Bill 248, which will make e-cigarette and vape retailers accountable for the sale of their products the same way tobacco retailers are held to account. Twenty-seven senators and 97 representatives voted in favor of the legislation, while three senators and 51 representatives voted against it. The bill, which takes effect Sept. 1, will regulate vape and e-cigarette retailers by requiring them to be permitted the same way tobacco retailers are currently regulated.
“Passing this bill into law was a great step toward regulating and maintaining oversight of the sales of vapes and e-cigarettes,“ Kim Simmons, director of prevention services for the Lufkin-based Alcohol and Drug Abuse Council of Deep East Texas, said. “The harder it is for minors to access tobacco and alcohol products, the more likely it is they’ll avoid the dangers of these addictive substances.”
Last year, more than 32,000 youths between 12 and 18 years old in Deep East Texas used e-cigarette or vape products, according to the 2020 Texas School Survey. Statewide, more than 266,000 students had used them in 2020, according to the statewide survey.
The majority of vape products contain nicotine, which has long been known to be highly addictive and contributes to a wide range of health problems affecting everything from the heart, to the reproductive system, lungs and kidneys.
The flavoring mixes and other chemical cocktails in them can use diacetyl — a chemical shown to cause “popcorn lung,” or the scaring of lung tissue — as well as vitamin E acetate.
The use of vitamin E acetate is what is believed responsible for the outbreak of lung illnesses associated with vaping. More than 2,800 cases of e-cigarette or vaping-associated lung injury, commonly called EVALI, had been reported as of February 2020. Texas reported more than 300 confirmed and probable cases and four deaths from EVALI as of March 2020.
Other states have taken note of the problems vaping and e-cigarettes pose, and North Carolina made headlines recently with its initiative against one of the biggest e-cigarette manufacturers.
Josh Stein, North Carolina’s attorney general, on June 28, announced the settlement of a lawsuit brought against the popular e-cigarette manufacturer Juul, resulting in a changes to the company’s business practices and $40 million to fight use and addiction to its product.
Under the settlement, Juul has to put an end to marketing strategies and content designed to attract young users — much in the same way tobacco companies targeted young people, which one company referred to as “replacement smokers.” The $40 million Juul will pay to North Carolina over the next six years will fund cessation and prevention programs.
“For years, JUUL targeted young people, including teens, with its highly addictive e-cigarette. It lit the spark and fanned the flames of a vaping epidemic among our children,” Stein said in a statement about the case. “This win will go a long way in keeping JUUL products out of kids’ hands, keeping its chemical vapor out of their lungs, and keeping its nicotine from poisoning and addicting their brains.”
Juul still faces significant legal actions by other states, and Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton is leading a 39-state coalition to investigate marketing and sales practices.
The use of vapes and e-cigarettes has been on the rise for years, to the point it was declared an epidemic in December 2018 by U.S. Surgeon General Jerome Adams, but it doesn’t have to be.
Youth smoking and tobacco use has been on the decline for years, thanks to intensive awareness, education and prevention initiatives, like the Truth campaign, showing the dangers of e-cigarette and vape.
Teens and young adults who want to quit vaping can text DitchVape to 88709 for information on quitting vaping from the Truth Initiative, or visit truthinitiative.org/thisisquitting.
More information on a variety of substance use issues is available through the Alcohol and Drug Abuse Council of Deep East Texas Region 5 Prevention Resource Center at PRC5.org.