September 26, 2019

Sen. Abrams, Cheshire Superintendent Solan Address Vaping Epidemic, Call For More Action In 2020

CHESHIRE – Today, State Senator Mary Daugherty Abrams (D- D-Meriden, Middlefield, Rockfall, Middletown, Cheshire), Senate Chair of the Public Health Committee, stood with Cheshire Superintendent Jeffrey Solan and American Cancer Society Connecticut Government Relations Director Bryte Johnson to call for legislators to respond to the advancing vaping epidemic. With more than 500 individuals nationwide developing serious lung damage as a result of vaping, and at least seven deaths in six states attributed to vaping, Sen. Abrams called for legislation that would ban flavored vaping products, among other additional controls, to be addressed in the 2020 legislative session.

As Chair of the Public Health Committee, Sen. Abrams helped introduce legislation in 2019 that would raise the age of access for tobacco products from 18 to 21 and would ban flavored vaping products. Raising the age of access, also known as “Tobacco 21,” passed, but the flavored vaping ban did not.

“If we don’t act quickly, it is our children who will be paying the price for this in our lifetimes,” said Sen. Abrams, who said she supports a potential executive order by Governor Ned Lamont to place controls on vaping sales. In Massachusetts, Governor Charlie Baker issued a four-month moratorium on sales of all e-cigarette products. She continues to support a ban on flavored vaping products and would support legislation limiting where vaping products can be sold, up to banning vaping products entirely.

“I am a former high school administrator, and when I began, I saw what this was doing in our schools with our young people,” said Sen. Abrams. “Since that time, in a 2018 survey of youth tobacco use, seniors reported a 50 percent growth in their use of vaping. It’s become exponentially more important that we address this crisis and protect our youth. Vaping, particularly with flavors, has targeted them because if they can get them at a young age, they’ll be addicted for life. This is a life-altering, life-threatening situation that we must be just as aggressive in responding to as they are in marketing. We do not know what is in the vaping products, and we don’t need to find out before taking action. More than 500 injuries and illnesses have been reported nationwide – 16 percent are children under the age of 18. When vaping first came out, it was advertised as a way to get off tobacco. In fact, that’s not the case. It’s not been proven whether it’s safer than tobacco. The FDA has not released results and is not regulating it. Parents need to have all of that information.”

“Educators across America are deeply concerned by the number of young people unwittingly turning to vaping thinking it’s a healthy alternative to smoking,” said Superintendent Solan. “Like many school systems, Cheshire has committed incredible resources to educate students, and the community, about the dangers of vaping. Anything that can be done to make vaping less alluring and more difficult for children is something I will always support. As a parent and an educator, I really appreciate this legislation moving forward and thank all of our legislators in advance for giving this topic the time and attention it deserves.”

“This topic will be debated heavily in the upcoming session and I wanted to commend the Public Health Committee, its chairs Sen. Abrams and Representative Steinberg, as well as all other proponents of legislation regulating e-cigarettes,” said Johnson. “The state needs to act now. The FDA needs to act now. Another issue that needs to be discussed is that the state woefully lags in tobacco control funding. We have not funded tobacco control outside of enforcement since 2015. This problem has exploded in part because of that. Parents, teachers, students are looking for educational information and we need to fund those programs.”

Sen. Abrams announced Thursday she will host a forum on vaping at Cheshire Town Hall’s Council Chambers on October 10 from 5:30 p.m. to 7 p.m. The forum is designed to discuss the topic and hear from local parents, students, educators and others who have personal experience with vaping to better inform the community.