The American Lung Association of Illinois wants lawmakers to take up measures to ban flavored vaping products, but a vape shop manager said the industry is willing to work on a compromise.
Hundreds of cases of lung illness and dozens of deaths around the country have been linked to vaping. Evidence suggests those lung problems were the result of illicit and unregulated products, but the U.S. Food and Drug Administration said it does not have enough data to identify the cause, or causes, of those cases.
“Additionally, while no one compound or ingredient has emerged as a singular culprit, we do know that THC is present in most of the samples being tested,” the agency said in a statement Friday.
Kathy Drea, director of advocacy with The American Lung Association of Illinois, said she expects Illinois state lawmakers to ban flavored vaping products.
“Flavors attract youth and young adults,” Drea said. “They also are made of chemicals that pose a risk for severe lung damage.”
She said there are several bills she expects to come up during the six days of the fall veto session in Springfield concerning vaping. One would add vaping and e-cigarettes to the Smoke Free Illinois Act that bans smoking combustible tobacco products in public places. There are several other bills that could come up to ban flavored vaping products, including menthol.
Jon Sharp, manager of Upper Limits in Springfield, insisted the shop's adult customers prefer flavored products to help kick combustible tobacco, which he said harms more people. He said banning products doesn’t work and pointed to illegal drugs. He said banning flavored vaping products in Illinois would do more harm than good.
“So you want to take millions of people using regulated products and push them to a black market,” Sharp said. “Makes no sense to me whatsoever. You’re going to see more people get hurt if you do that.”
Drea said that’s a typical argument, but said banning products is best for public health.
The federal government is working to finalize a compliance policy to clear the market of unauthorized, non-tobacco-flavored e-cigarette products. That announcement in September from the FDA did not give a timeline, but said the compliance policy will be finalized “in the coming weeks.”
Friday the FDA’s consumer alert said no one should use vaping products containing THC.
“Additionally, consumers who choose to use any vaping products should not modify or add any substances such as THC or other oils to products purchased in stores and should not purchase any vaping products, including those containing THC, off the street or from other illicit channels,” the statement said.
Sharp said he believes the vaping industry is willing to work on a compromise, such as limiting nicotine levels or increasing penalties for underage sales.
“You start pulling business licenses, you’re going to have convenience stores stop selling these things to these kids,” Sharp said. “We’re more than willing to work with them on marketing and labeling.”
Drea said she doesn’t buy it.
“They have fought us for over ten years on these issues so I just don’t feel like they are being sincere in their actions now,” she said.
Lawmakers return to Springfield on Oct. 28.