This week, more counties in Utah took measures to urge state lawmakers to implement stricter policies and laws to govern uses of electronic cigarettes amidst the national alarm of their health effects.
These measures include passing resolutions asking the Utah Legislature to pursue legislation making it more difficult for teenagers to obtain electronic cigarettes and other vaping products, as well as taxing these products and putting in place statewide restrictions on flavored vaping products.
We echo the sentiments of many Utah counties in urging Utah County lawmakers to support the passage of bills tackling this serious health issue that attracts and harms our youth.
We urge Utah County lawmakers to prepare and pass legislation that raises the statewide age limit in obtaining these electronic cigarettes; further regulates the sale of devices and vape juice; and includes e-cigarettes in smoke-free policies and provides educators with more options in confiscating these harmful substances brought into our public schools.
E-cigarettes can take on different appearances — USB flash drives, pens and other everyday items — and are regularly brought into schools. What policies will help educators prevent this underage use and sharing among peers in school? Educators must communicate to lawmakers what they are witnessing on a daily basis from teens and what policies would be practical and helpful.
While cities are individually passing their own measures, the strongest form of intervention would be statewide application. While the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act maintains national regulations regarding the manufacturing, selling and marketing of these products, states can pass additional measures counties and their health departments are begging for.
More can be done.
The Utah Department of Health reported 114 cases of vaping-related lung disease have been identified in the state, as of Tuesday, with one death and 13 additional cases under investigation.
Officials are particularly concerned with THC cartridges obtained from other states or obtained illegally, as health care professionals do not yet understand the full consequences of vaping the ingredient that is active in marijuana.
While smoking traditional cigarettes lost its mass appeal decades ago after national anti-smoking campaigns and regulation of the products, vaping has transfixed younger populations who are lured with the ease and fruity flavors without realizing the impact to their long-term health. According to the CDC, 99% of e-cigarettes sold in the U.S. contain nicotine, an addictive substance we’ve been acquainted with for ages, which harms the developing adolescent brain.
Our communities and nation waited too long to act on opioids before it overtook entire areas far down the rabbit hole of drug addiction and pain. We don’t have to wait for more adults and youth to face lung disease as a result of e-cigarettes and vaping before we take it as seriously.
This would be the best course of action until health care providers can determine which harmful substances might be contributing to numerous new cases of severe lung illness.