This week, Texas Health and Human Services reported a record number of people with lung disease linked to vaping. One of those people has died; many of them are young – an average of 22 years old. And the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also recently released a report saying that more than 6 million American teens use tobacco products, the majority of those products being e-cigarettes. But health experts are still trying to determine which vaping products are causing illness. In the meantime, health officials recommend that Texans stop using e-cigarette products altogether.
State Sen. Charles Perry of Lubbock is vice chairman of the Texas Senate Committee on Health and Human Services. The committee met this week to discuss vaping. Perry, a Republican, says it’s not the government’s job to keep people from using products that could damage their health, but he’s taking a different tack given the rise in youth deaths linked to vaping.
“We do have a situation now where the product[s] that people are consuming are possibly going to kill them because of some of the ingredients being added,” Perry says.
For children who are vaping, Perry says their parents need to take more responsibility for their health.
“As always, this society looks to government to fix personal responsibility,” he says.
Perry says the Texas Legislature will evaluate the data to see if any particular companies or people are “bad actors” – in other words, those who sell a product with the intention of getting consumers hooked. That’s in addition to ongoing Food and Drug Administration research investigating the source of vaping-related illness.
“You’ll see strong consideration by the Texas Legislature to treat the vaping industry no different than the tobacco industry,” Perry says. “The common theme being there [that] it’s addictive and it’s based on an addiction on nicotine that’s purposely added to products.”
He says unless or until the vaping industry is willing to pay for the consequences of vaping-related illness and nicotine addiction, vaping products should be banned altogether.
“Until they’re willing to write the check for all of those state costs to deal with these social ills, then I’m gonna be a staunch advocate of not having it,” Perry says.
Texas Standard received an email response to Perry’s comments from Gregory Conley, president of the American Vaping Association, a nonprofit, pro-vaping advocacy organization. An excerpt is reprinted below:
“When it comes to recent lung illnesses and deaths, the evidence continues to point to contaminated illicit THC products as the cause. CDC publications and doctors who have treated patients have both reported that patients claiming to have only vaped nicotine are often found to be lying, most likely because of marijuana still being illegal.
“We need to do more to prevent youth experimentation with vaping products, but that does not mean we should take away options from the 34 million-plus American adults who still smoke cigarettes. … Moreover, as youth vaping rose, we just saw the largest ever decline in teen smoking.
“Youth are abusing high nicotine products designed to help heavy smokers quit in order to get a nicotine buzz. Banning flavors won’t do a thing to stop risk-seeking youth from experimenting, but it will create massive black markets and discourage adults from quitting smoking, as we know that flavors are used by the vast majority of adult users.”
Written by Caroline Covington.