FL contends with first official vaping death: Will Gov. DeSantis follow other states in banning vaping?

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(Updated) With vaping-related illnesses and deaths expanding in Florida and 37 other states, governors in at least four states have enacted bans on vaping-related products.

So far, Gov. Ron DeSantis is not one of them.

On Thursday, DeSantis said state officials are working with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on how best to handle the vaping crisis, while acknowledging that information remains elusive about the medical situation.

“These deaths – are they from run-of-the-mill retail products, or are they the kind of bootleg stuff where you’re mixing other things in? The CDC is studying that, and I think that will be very helpful,” DeSantis told reporters during a press conference.

The governor also indicated that he had reservations about enacting a ban, saying it could lead to worse outcomes — a sentiment shared by some public health officials.

“If you try to ban the stuff that you can buy in the store and people really want to do it – they may go to the bootleg. That might be even more dangerous,” DeSantis said.

Health authorities reported on Thursday that Florida has suffered its first death to due to vaping-related illness, the 12th such fatality recorded in the U.S. In all, the CDC now reports 530 confirmed and probable cases of lung injury associated with the use of e-cigarettes, also known as vaping.  In addition to the one noted fatality, the Florida Department of Health says there have been 27 cases of vaping-related incidents in Florida.

DeSantis said he wishes the federal government could provide more information about the crisis, and expects it to last “many more months” before answers are known.

Governors in at least four states – Michigan, New York, Massachusetts and Rhode Island – have enacted bans on vaping-related products, according to Politico. Three of the four are Democrats, with Charlie Baker of Massachusetts, a Republican. (Florida Gov. DeSantis is a Republican.)

California Gov. Gavin Newsom says he would like to ban e-flavored cigarettes, but says that he legally cannot do so through executive action alone. So instead he’s issued an executive order that allocates at least $20 million for a “vaping awareness campaign, Time magazine reports.

Attorney General Ashley Moody said earlier this week that she has major concerns as both the state’s top law enforcement officer and a parent of a ten-year-old child, regarding the reports about vaping illnesses and deaths.

Moody says as she’s traveled the state talking to educators, coaches and school principals, she’s heard troubling anecdotes about teenager being addicting to vaping products.

And she seemed astonished upon learning from a study that among young people aged 15-24, two-thirds don’t even know vaping includes nicotine.

“Remember, under 18 (years old) it’s illegal, so one of my primary concerns is, why are we seeing such a rapid increase and how can we stop that? What can we do in terms of recourse when kids are caught with this to include an education component,” she told reporters this week.

“What do we do about flavors? Bubble gum. Grape. Candy flavors. I can tell you as a mother of ten-year-old, those attract kids like they’re candy in a cabinet. “

Lung cancer is a personal issue for the Attorney General. She said her husband’s grandparents have died of smoking-related illnesses. “And so, in terms of whether or not these devices can be truly cessation devices help shift from combustibles over to vaping. That needs to be studied. FDA needs to do their job and make sure that they’re regulating those appropriately.”

Moody added that she has spoken with legislators who already have or are considering legislative proposals to address the vaping situation, including Tampa GOP House Rep. Jackie Toledo, who has introduced a bill that would raise the legal age to buy vaping and tobacco products from 18 to 21, as well as ban the use of flavoring in vaping products.

“People are dying. People are getting sick, so that’s why I took a strong position on it,” Toledo told the Phoenix last week.

Late on Friday afternoon, the Florida Department of Health told the Phoenix that it’s responding to the emerging health issue in three ways:

  • Coordinating with the CDC and FDA to develop a disease case definition and to report cases of illness to the CDC to be part of the national investigation;
  • Working with county health departments and clinicians to identify and investigate reports of lung disease associated with electronic cigarette or vaping use; and,
  • Monitoring and conducting surveillance of lung disease that is associated with electronic cigarette or vaping use.

 

Mitch Perry
Mitch Perry has spent the past 18 years covering news and politics in the Sunshine State, most recently with FloridaPolitics.com. He worked for five years as the political editor of Creative Loafing in Tampa, and before that he was the assistant news director at WMNF radio, where he served as creator/anchor/producer of the hour-long WMNF Evening News. A San Francisco native, Mitch began his career at KPFA Radio in Berkeley in the 1990's.

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