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Parks, Stadiums Banning E-Cigarettes as Vaping-Related Death Toll Grows

2 Oct, 2019

By: Michael Popke

By mid-September, no fewer than eight people had died from what medical officials describe as vaping-related illnesses, prompting the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to predict there will be more.

“We do expect others,” Anne Schuchat, the federal agency’s principal deputy director, told reporters on Sept. 19, adding that as of that date, the number of vaping-related illnesses had climbed to 530 cases in 38 states, plus the U.S. Virgin Islands.

Those alarming numbers have states scrambling to fight increasing health concerns.

California Gov. Gavin Newsom recently announced plans to launch a state-sponsored $20 million public awareness campaign about the dangers of vaping devices, and his executive actions instructed state regulators to “reduce youth vaping consumption” by finding ways to ban illegal and counterfeit vaping products, according to The Los Angeles Times. A California man was the seventh person to die from a vaping-related illness.

In youth sports, e-cigarettes are frowned upon as well. The National Federation of State High School Associations noted, “The issue of vaping has reached a crisis stage across the United States, and leaders in our nation’s schools must take immediate steps to stop the use of these electronic cigarette products by our nation’s youth – particularly the more than 12 million participants in high school athletics and performing arts programs.”

In other states — from Reno, Nev., to Marshfield, Wis. — local municipalities are taking matters into their own hands by banning vaping (and smoking) in parks.  

“I think it’s a great step towards keeping our parks healthy spaces and healthy for young lungs at work,” Colleen Wallace Barnum, park operations superintendent for Washoe County, Nev., told KTVN, Reno’s CBS-TV affiliate. Although officials in Nevada say local law enforcement won’t actively patrol parks looking for violators, they can issue warnings to those they see breaking the law. Charges could follow if violations continue, they say.

Wikipedia even has compiled a state-by-state list of vaping bans in the United States, including parks. Ballparks have a similar list.

Although the Trump administration announced in early September plans to ban flavored e-cigarettes, details coming out of the White House remain scarce. However, one popular brand of e-cigarette, Juul, has announced top corporate shake-ups – and has said that it would not lobby against a ban.

Juul was cited by NFHS as the biggest offender in the teen vaping epidemic, since its products are offered in flavors like cotton candy, chocolate, gummy bear, strawberry, among others, leading users to believe they are harmless.

 Additionally, NFHS noted, a recent study by the University of Michigan showed that the increase in adolescent vaping from 2017 to 2018 was the largest ever recorded for any adolescent substance use outcome in the United States. Research suggests that almost 30 percent of 12th graders are now actively vaping in 2018, with JUUL by far the most popular product.

NFHS officials added, “In recent meetings, ideas to address JUUL use among students and athletes included adding sensors in school bathrooms, aggressive educational programs, expressively prohibiting their use through our athletic participation process and increased staff supervision in suspected areas of use. Of course, these are approaches and items that will involve new applications of human resources and the spending of tax dollars that could definitely be used in other areas of our academic and athletic programming.”

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