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Calls For More Restrictions On Vaping In Illinois

Vaping360 via Flickr
CC BY-ND 2.0

There are rising calls for tighter restrictions on the use of e-cigarettes in Illinois. They come as another death linked to vaping was reported this week.

A public health advocate and a state legislator want the state to ban flavored e-cigarettes and vaping in public.

The governor of Michigan this week signed an executive order banning the sale of fruity, sweet or menthol vaping products. State Sen. Julie Morrison, a Democrat from Deerfield, said Illinois should follow the governor’s lead.

“She recognized that this is marketing to kids, the very people who this product is most dangerous for,” Morrison said.

The Surgeon General says teens and young adults should avoid vaping, citing concerns about the effects of nicotine on brain development.

Meanwhile, the vaping industry says it’s an effective tool to get people to stop smoking cigarettes – which are more harmful.

“[A ban on flavors] could also drive consumers back to cigarettes, and we are certain of the diseases and sicknesses that it's caused both first and second hand,” said Tom Teml, vice president of the industry group Smoke Free Alternatives Coalition of Illinois. He also runs a vape manufacturing company.

Teml worried restricting flavors could result in a black market, meaning people would consumer vaping products that aren't regulated.

Instead, he’d like to see Illinois focus on enforcing the new, higher age — 21 years — to buy tobacco products. Lawmakers raised it from 18 this year.

A spokeswoman for Governor J.B. Pritzker did not specifically comment on the ban, but says the governor is working with a group of medical and legal experts to address the issue.

Kathy Drea, with the American Lung Association in Illinois, said her group supports tighter rules on flavored cigarettes.

“The candy and fruit flavors of e-cigarettes are one of the primary reasons kids use them,” she said.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention , 3.6 million middle and high school students used e-cigarettes in 2018, up from 2.1 million in 2017.

The debate has been getting more attention as the CDC has reported more than 200 vaping-related illnesses nationwide.

Still, Teml emphasized that some of the cases involved cannabinoid products, such as tetrahydrocannabinol (THC).

Meanwhile, the city of Springfieldbecame the latest municipality to ban vaping in public places, putting it under the same restrictions as smoking cigarettes. It joins more than 30 other cities across Illinois.

Both Morrison and Drea said they would support a statewide ban.

“I've had many parents tell me that their kids cannot stop watching someone using an e-cigarette,” said Drea. She said Illinois would benefit from “the denormalization of including them in a smoke-free law like this, so that our young people aren't seeing them everywhere.”

The Illinois Senate considered a bill to add vaping and e-cigarettes to the Smoke Free Illinois Act earlier this year, but it stalled. State Sen. Terry Link, who sponsored the legislation, did not respond to a request for comment about whether he'll bring it back.

Teml said his group isn’t against the restrictions. But the coalition would like to see vaping categorized as a nuisance, not a health hazard.

Mary Hansen is a former NPR Illinois reporter.
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