There have been more than 1,60 cases of vape-related disease including 34 deaths nationally, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control. One death was in Florida.
We applaud Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody for launching a much-needed investigation into how companies are marketing and selling vape products in Florida.
Her action is welcome, because the state is doing too little to regulate e-cigarette companies. And the health problems are getting worse — even deadly.
But the state — read that, the governor and legislature — must go further.
Moody is looking into the reasons kids are getting addicted to nicotine through the heedless use of e-cigarettes — and that’s a crucially important thing to fight against.
Since becoming AG in January, the former circuit court judge says she has discovered that at least one in four Florida high school students admit to vaping; that they are attracted to products flavored like cotton candy, bubblegum and Cap’n Crunch; and that some advertising seems to be intentionally targeting young people.
“I refuse, as attorney general and a mother,” she recently told reporters, “to sit on my hands while the next generation becomes addicted to nicotine.”
Good for her.
But this health crisis is even more urgent. There have been more than 1,60 cases of vape-related disease including 34 deaths nationally, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control. One death was in Florida.
Some 86% of all cases involve vapes containing THC, the main psychoactive compound in marijuana; 34% of patients vaped THC exclusively and many of the products were obtained on the street. But 64% of patients used tobacco products, with 11% using tobacco exclusively, according to information the CDC gathered on almost 870 patients.
The CDC has recommended that no one use e-cigarette products that contain THC. Yet vape pens and cartridges are being sold in Florida medical marijuana stores — which require a state license to operate.
The state should waste no time in placing at least a temporary ban these sales. If that’s too radical a step, the state should at least require warnings to be posted in medical marijuana stores.
But with our children at risk, Gov. Ron DeSantis should take a close look at what Massachusetts’ governor, Charlie Baker, has done. Last month, Baker declared a public health emergency and imposed a four-month ban on the sale of all vaping products, those that deliver nicotine or cannabis alike. The idea is to give medical researchers some time to figure out what is going on.
For the record, it has been illegal in Florida since 2014 to sell nicotine-dispensing devices to people younger than 18. You’d hardly know it. From 2015 to 2019, Florida high schoolers’ use of e-cigarettes increased 62%, according to the Florida Youth Tobacco Survey.
Moody, commendably, wants the state to look for ways to strengthen that ban on under-age sales.
And, as she says, Florida legislators should take the obvious step of banning flavored e-cigarette products. Plus, more money should be allotted to Tobacco Free Florida to get the message out about the serious risks to health.
It’s time to heat up this fight. Our young people are at stake.
The Gainesville Sun