Legislators warn of ‘vaping epidemic’ among teenagers

Local News

FILE – In this Tuesday, April 10, 2018 photo, a high school principal displays vaping devices that were confiscated from students at the school in Massachusetts. On Wednesday, Aug. 14, 2019, the Vapor Technology Association filed a lawsuit against the U.S. government to delay a review of electronic cigarettes. (AP Photo/Steven Senne)

SARASOTA, Fla. (WFLA) – Health officials in Minnesota are confirming multiple cases of severe lung injuries in teenagers who used e-cigarettes, but it’s not the first time Tampa Bay has been warned about the dangers of vaping.

Hillsborough County Sheriff Chad Chronister and Hillsborough superintendent Jeff Eakins met to discuss what they called a teen vaping epidemic back in May.

And early this summer, a Sarasota County family filed a lawsuit against e-cigarette company JUUL Labs Inc., for exploiting adolescents and getting them hooked on the aerosol devices that deliver a more powerful hit of nicotine than cigarettes.

But the family wasn’t the first to file a lawsuit about the e-cigarette company.

A South Florida mother filed a lawsuit in October 2018 because her 15-year-old son was addicted to the product and vaped up to 12 times a day.

The issue is impacting communities across the Tampa Bay area.

In November of last year, Juul pulled it’s flavored e-cigarette products from convenience stores and vape shops in an effort to curb underage vaping.

Early this year, Seminole High School parents gathered in the school’s auditorium to discuss what state and federal officials have deemed as an epidemic.

“It affects their health. It affects brain activity, and we see it marketed to younger and younger children,” said Seminole High Principal, Jane Lucas.

Pinellas County Deputy Jeffrey Cuttitta suggested parents stay aware of their students’ activity.

“They need to check their rooms, check their backpacks, check their social media, check their phones,” Cuttitta said.

Not long after Marlboro cigarette maker Altria purchased a 35 percent stake in JUUL for $12.8 billion in Dec. 2018, the U.S. Surgeon General issued an advisory, in which HHS Secretary Alex Azar noted the significant rate at which teenagers are picking up the habit.

“In the data sets we use, we have never seen use of any substance by America’s young people rise as rapidly as e-cigarette use is rising,” Azar said.

According to recent data from Tobacco Free Florida, about 25 percent of Florida high school students reported current use of electronic vaping in 2018, which is a 58 percent increase from the previous year.

Only about 4 percent of adults in Florida were using e-cigarettes.

A 2018 Florida Youth Tobacco Survey showed that vaping has emerged as one of the most prevalent forms of substance use among teenagers in the Sunshine State.

The same study showed that the prevalence of vape pen and JUUL usage increased 4.1 percentage points for past-30-day use, making vape pens and JUULs the only substance use category where students reported a substantial increase over the last two years.

Take a look at the graph below to see just how prevalent vaping has become for Florida teens.

E-cigarette use

Check out the increase of E-cigarette use among Florida teens between 2016 and 2018. Hover over the bar to see the exact percentage number.

Source: Tobacco Free Florida

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