November 22, 2019

Senator Abrams, Reps. Abercrombie and Altobello, Mental Health and Addiction Services Commissioner Delphin-Rittmon Hold Forum on Vaping in Meriden Thursday

MERIDEN – On Thursday, State Senator Mary Daugherty Abrams (D- Meriden, Middlefield, Rockfall, Middletown, Cheshire), Senate Chair of the Public Health Committee, was joined by State Representatives Cathy Abercrombie (D-Meriden, Berlin) and Buddy Altobello (D-Meriden) and Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services Commissioner Miriam Delphin-Rittmon at Meriden’s Francis T. Maloney High School for a public forum on vaping. This forum comes as more than 2,000 illnesses and more than 40 deaths have been reported nationwide as a result of using vaping products, and recent surveys suggest vaping use is reaching new highs in schools. Thursday’s forum saw legislators, officials, professionals and students come together to discuss the rise of vaping and vaping products, health concerns from youth and public use and ways to combat the rising number of individuals using vapes.

Additional participants in Thursday’s forum included Barbara Walsh of the Department of Public Health, Meriden Health and Human Services Director Lea Crown, Meriden Student Supports and Special Education Senior Director Patricia Sullivan-Kowalski, Bryte Johnson of the American Cancer Society Action Network, Ellen Graham representing U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal, John Kuckel, principal of Meriden’s Lincoln Middle School, and Krystle Blake of the Rushford and Meriden Youth Coalition.

“The continued news reports detailing further vaping-related injuries only further confirm what we’ve known for some time now. Vaping is not safe, especially for our children,” said Sen. Abrams. “The thousands of illnesses we have seen over the last months could only be the start of an even larger problem. The recent release of the Food and Drug Association’s 2019 National Youth Tobacco Survey showed more than 5 million youth reported using e-cigarettes in a thirty-day period, one million of them using them daily. The good news is that the majority of students are not vaping, but we know that the number of students using vaping products is growing exponentially, meaning now is the time to act.”

“As President Trump refuses to address this growing public health crisis, it falls to states to protect the health of their residents. Through forums like this one, we can learn more about the dangers of vaping and prepare to follow the lead of states like Massachusetts, whose legislature just passed a ban on flavored tobacco products. I am so thankful to the Meriden community for coming together and learning more about this topic. I’m also encouraged by the interventions of the Meriden school systems, Rushford and the local public health department have implemented to prevent further vaping use among students. They need our support in Hartford to help protect public health.”

“The recent outbreak of lung injuries and deaths linked to e-cigarettes has shown that many people are unaware of the dangers of vaping. Here in Connecticut, we have passed legislation prohibiting tobacco products to anyone under the age of 21, but we still need to do more to educate and protect our youth,” said Rep. Cathy Abercrombie, co-chair of the legislature’s Human Services Committee.

“It is integral that we as a community learn more about the risks and dangers of vaping,” said Rep. Altebello. “As a legislator, I believe my colleagues and I need to educate ourselves before we can work on addressing this issue.”

The Washington Post reported this week that a planned ban on most flavored e-cigarettes proposed by the Trump Administration is not currently going forward, with reports indicating the ban may be taken off the table altogether. Also this week, New York, California and North Carolina filed lawsuits against vape producer JUUL Labs, Inc. for targeting youth audiences with vaping marketing, while Massachusetts lawmakers voted this week to ban all flavored tobacco products, including vaping products.

Thursday’s forum came as more than 36 deaths and 2,000 illnesses have been linked to lung illness and injury caused by vaping products by The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. A recent report indicated the byproduct vitamin E acetate, contained in some vaping products that contained counterfeit THC, may have contributed to deaths.