JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – This week more than 100 people protested in our nation's capital against the e-cigarette company JUUL, and at the front of the protest was Katelynd Todd of Jacksonville.
The number of vaping related illnesses in the U.S. has surged to around 1,300 cases, with 219 reported in the past week.
Officials at the Florida Department of Health said there have been 52 cases of vaping related illnesses reported in the state and one death.
Two people have died in Georgia from vaping related illnesses, according to health officials.
Todd said people are protesting against the e-cigarette company and want answers about the dangers they pose to users.
“I’ve seen the long-term health risks that come with tobacco usage. I’ve also seen the target marketing with billions of dollars that have gone into getting so many people hooked. I just felt like, I had to be a part of this fight,” Todd said.
Todd’s family still lives on Jacksonville's Westside. She said the issue hits home.
“People that I love, a lot of my friends who are in vulnerable populations in the city, they all kind of believe this is a safe thing to do and safer than cigarettes. And that’s not true,” Todd said.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said the following about e-cigarettes:
- E-cigarettes have the potential to benefit adult smokers who are not pregnant if used as a complete substitute for regular cigarettes.
- E-cigarettes are not safe for youth, young adults, pregnant women, or adults who do not currently use tobacco products.
- While e-cigarettes have the potential to benefit some people and harm others, scientists still have a lot to learn about whether e-cigarettes are effective for quitting smoking.
Todd also has a message she wants to share about e-cigarettes.
"Until we keep pushing the FDA and these government agencies to regulate (them), we just don’t know and everyone is just a guinea pig," Todd said. "It’s just crazy to me that every day we are using products, and we see people we love using these products that we quite literally do not know what is doing to our bodies.”
The protest specifically targeted the company JUUL.
The company has made some changes since it became aware of illnesses and deaths related to vaping.
However, JUUL still sells flavored e-cigarettes, which many people believe are marketed to young kids.
Legislation has been introduced in Florida that would ban the sale of flavored e-cigarettes but the bill has not been approved yet.