The Illinois House of Representatives' Mental Health Committee heard testimony this week about a possible ban on flavored liquids for e-cigarettes.
The committee heard testimony from Attorney General Kwame Raoul, Illinois Department of Public Health Director Ngozi O. Ezike, high school students, several state's attorneys, physicians, consumers and vape shop owners on what banning the flavored liquids would do to the industry and what it currently does to the community. Raoul said the evidence was clear.
"I fully support a ban on flavored e-cigarettes, but the problem is more comprehensive than that," Raoul said. "I don’t believe the legislature’s work will be done with just banning flavored e-cigarettes."
Illinois state Attorney General Kwame Raoul
Ezike said they have yet to clearly identify what is specifically causing the influx in lung injuries that have occurred in recent months.
"It's clear there is nothing healthy about vaping," Ezike said. "Youth vaping is a growing epidemic in our country and in our state. I urge the committee to take up initiatives to stop this."
Ezike added that 68 percent of youth use flavored e-cigarettes, which is up from 21 percent in 2017. She said the numbers increased 900 percent from 2011 to 2015.
DuPage County States Attorney Robert Berlin called the vaping trend a public health crisis and said that packaging appeals to children. Lake County State's Attorney Michael Nerheim said that teen vaping is a massive health epidemic.
Several students also talked about the "vape culture" in their schools, noting that students cannot even go to the bathroom without being exposed to the products. Willowbrook High School student Jack Carey said teens are being targeted by advertisements.
American Lung Association President Harold Wimmer said 70 percent of youth cite flavor as their reason for use of vaping.
"We need to end the sale of all flavored e-tobacco products," Wimmer said. "We also need to add e-cigarettes to the smoke-free workplace law."
Victoria Vasconcellos with Smoke-Free Alternatives Coalition of Illinois, called the urgency of a flavor ban a knee-jerk response.
"There is a new cutting and thickening agent in the cannabis world and this substance should not be inhaled," Vasconcellos said. "We've been vocal with public health authorities. THC pens are not the same as vape products. You are targeting the wrong product."
Tony Abboud with the Vapor Technology Association said vaping products are not designed for use with THC.
"For us to talk about this solely as a vaping problem is dangerous," Abboud said. "The FDA said consumers can protect themselves by stopping vaping with THC."