Let’s not wait for vaping to kill teenagers before we act.
Vaping is a vital community health issue that needs to be fast-tracked rather than slow-walked.
A look across the state line is instructive in how lobbyists seem to have effectively slowed legislative action.
The Billings Gazette reports this month that the vaping industry spent more than half a million dollars lobbying Montana lawmakers and donating to campaigns from 2016 to 2019. That investment appears to have paid off in lawmakers stifling legislation. In 2019, only one of seven bills survived — and that lukewarm bill banned vaping in public schools.
Meanwhile, Montana health officials have documented the state’s first death from vaping — a teen.
So far, Wyoming has not announced a vaping-related death. But a young adult from Uinta County was hospitalized with a severe lung disease related to vaping, Wyoming’s first confirmed case so far. The state is investigating more.
We laud the Teton County School District, Teton County Sheriff’s Deputy Andrew Roundy and the Teton County Prosecutor’s Office for taking this issue seriously and doing what they can to deter youth from taking up this harmful habit.
As of Oct. 15, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has reported 1,479 lung injury cases associated with the use of e-cigarette, or vaping, products in every state except Alaska. Thirty-three deaths have been confirmed in 24 states. In every case, patients reported a history of using e-cigarette, or vaping, products.
Although Montana’s Legislature has been moving slowly, Gov. Steve Bullock ordered a 120-day ban on sales of flavored vaping products to start this month, though a district judge granted vape shops’ request to delay that ban. Candy- and fruit-flavored vapes appear designed to get kids hooked.
It’s not just their lungs we should worry about. Scientists are warning of other potential problems in young users, including attention disorders like ADHD, impulse control issues and susceptibility to substance abuse.
The Wyoming Legislature has been looking into options that include raising fines for underage offenders and adults who provide vaping materials, increasing the legal age for using tobacco and vaping products, taxing the products and banning online sales to Wyoming customers. Vaping is such an epidemic that teachers, administrators and school safety officers have been putting pressure on the Wyoming Legislature to do something.
Like Montana, the tobacco lobby is strong in Wyoming. Citizens who care about our youth will have to keep up the pressure if they want to see any action to curb this growing health crisis.
Since the CDC is still investigating vaping, the health watchdog says the only way to avoid the risk of lung injury is to refrain from using all e-cigarette, or vaping, products.