WFSU News · Tallahassee · Panama City · Thomasville
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations

As The Number Of Deaths Linked To Vaping Rises Leaders Across Florida And The U.S. Are Taking Action

blonde woman in front of grey background blowing vapor out of her mouth
Sharon McCutcheon

As vaping makes national headlines, Florida lawmakers are bringing their agenda and policies to the forefront.

"I'm trying to cut down a lot. It's just really hard because I've been Juuling for two and a half years."

Recent news reports link nine deaths nationwide to vaping. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has confirmed seven, but that could change. The agency reports more than 500 lung illnesses could be connected to the use of e-cigarettes.

That news caught the attention of Tallahassee Community College freshman Savannah Banachowski.

“I have heard a lot of national conversation about it and it does certainly raise a concern to me. I very am much-so concerned for my health. I’m trying to cut down a lot it’s just really hard because I’ve been Juuling for two and a half years,” Banachowski says.

Banachowski says she was introduced to vaping at a party when her friend let her try their Juul device. She says it helps calm her nerves.

A Warning For The Vape Company Juul

Earlier this month Juul, a well-known e-cigarette brand, received a warning by the Federal Food and Drug Administration for marketing its products as a safer alternative to traditional cigarettes. Just two days later, the Trump administration announced plans to ban flavored e-cigarettes from the market nationwide.

A neon sign for the company juul
Credit Photo by Jordan Whitfield on Unsplash
The FDA has issued a warning to the vaping company Juul.

E-cigarettes, or vapes, have become popular for a perception that they’re healthier than regular cigarettes. But the Center for Responsive Politics says people often overlook that most of the companies that created vapes are now owned by Big Tobacco. And Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody says many people also don't realize e-cigarettes can contain nicotine.

“What we found when speaking with educators and parents was that a lot of times the children didn’t even know that vaping products contained nicotine and following up with parents, they also felt in many instances that it was a harmless habit,” said Moody.

The CDC says it has not identified any specific product (devices, liquids, refill pods, and/or cartridges) linked to all cases.

Florida Leaders Take Action

While there are still no definite answers, Florida leaders are taking action.  Sen. David Simmons (R-Longwood) plans to reintroduce a bill he filed last session to raise the smoking age to 21. That includes vaping.

Sen. David Simmons (R-Altamonte Springs) is the main author of Florida's Stand Your Ground law.
Credit Sen. David Simmons' Facebook page
Sen. David Simmons' Facebook page
Senator David Simmons says he plans to continue pushing for legislation that will require a person to be at least 21 to vape or smoke.

“I’m not going to predict what the House of Representatives might do with this, but I am stating to you that I believe that there is a very cautious optimism that we will be able to pass very meaningful legislation,” Simmons said.

Tobacco 21 Eastern Regional Director, Shannon Quinby, believes the state is on the right path, but she says there's more Florida can do.

"There are complimentary policies that are just as important around tobacco that will help keep Florida’s youth numbers low,” said Quinby.

For example, Quinby says she'd like to see Florida adopt policies from the Tobacco Free Kids Campaign. It would ban flavored e-cigarettes and vapes, such as cotton candy, which suggest that children are a target.

Similar bans are already being introduced in New York, California, and Michigan.

"A lot of times the children didn't even know that vaping products contained nicotine."

Meanwhile, Florida Education Commissioner, Richard Corcoran, is working with the Florida Department of Health to develop a three-hour course he hopes will serve as an intervention program--educating children on the risks of vaping.

“Kids lungs are being hospitalized with damage to their lungs in short periods of time," Corcoran said. The first lady launched an initiative along with [Attorney General Ashley Moody] and we adopted a role last month at her request that now we look at all 67 counties."

Walmart has also joined the wave by announcing it will no longer sell e-cigarettes.

Brittany Jarret is a senior broadcast journalism student at Florida A&MUniversity. She currently serves as the Assistant Lifestyles Editor for the FAMUAN newspaper and a live-shot reporter for FAMU’s News 20 at Five. Her passion for writing and storytelling is deeply displayed through her goal to become a multimedia journalist.