Jacksonville committee discusses concerns on teen vaping

By Lauren Verno - Consumer investigative reporter, Ashley Harding - Reporter

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - As the federal government considers a ban on flavored vaping products to address the spike in teens vaping, a Jacksonville City Council committee on Thursday addressed the issue locally.

The city's special committee on opioids heard from community members, vape shop owners and a few people who said vaping helped them stop smoking cigarettes, but the committee did not discuss any legislation.

"In 2010, in the U.S., when vaping became more popular, my mother jumped on the train. My stepfather jumped on the train -- my brother and my sister-in-law," Stephanie Hughes said. "Currently two of them do not vape anymore. Two of them still vape, but still that's two people who are not smoking very harmful cigarettes, which have been proven to kill."

But some who showed up spoke against all tobacco products, specifically for young users.

"Now, we have vaping to worry about, which scares me to death because my kids know and report to me that kids are vaping at school -- in the bathrooms, in class, between class," Ann Gipalo said.

Committee Chairman Ron Salem, who is also a pharmacist, added vaping to the meeting agenda after eight deaths were linked to vaping nationwide and lung illnesses in hundreds of other e-cigarette users.

One of the chairman's main concerns is how many teens are using vape products.

Just like with opioids, teen vaping has been called an "epidemic." Information from Tobacco Free Florida shows about 25% of Florida high school students reported vaping last year. That's a 58% jump from 2017.

The University of Michigan surveyed more than 42,000 students nationwide. The researchers found a quarter of high school seniors said they vaped in the past month. That's a 21% increase from last year.

No legislation on vaping was discussed at Thursday's meeting, but lawmakers are trying to figure out if the city needs a new committee specifically on vaping.

Florida state Rep. Jackie Toledo, R-Tampa, has proposed a bill that would ban all flavored e-cigarettes, as well as raise the age to buy cigarettes or e-cigarettes from 18 to 21. 

To fight this trend on a national level, President Donald Trump has proposed banning flavored e-cigarettes and vaping products. Several broadcast networks have banned e-cigarette ads. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has also stepped up its investigation into a wave of illnesses linked to vaping.

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