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Vaping illness, death drive Senate action to protect youth

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SPRINGFIELD – Responding to a wave of hospitalizations and deaths across the country, Illinois senators on Tuesday discussed a possible crackdown on flavored tobacco and vaping products.

The proposal, Senate Bill 668, creates the Flavored Tobacco Ban Act, which prohibits the sale or distribution of any flavored tobacco products, including cigarettes, electronic cigarettes and chewing tobacco. The legislation is aimed specifically at keeping tobacco out of the hands of children.

“Youth are especially vulnerable to this harmful substance that can lead to life-long addiction,” Illinois Senate President John Cullerton said during testimony before the Senate Executive Committee. “The flavors offered, like bubblegum and grape, entice children to try the product by masking its harshness.”

More than 1,600 people nationwide have suffered from vaping-related illnesses, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, resulting in 34 deaths – two of which were in Illinois.

According to an August report from the Illinois Department of Public Health, 153 people in the state have experienced lung injuries after using e-cigarettes or vaping. The department reported those victims range in age from 13 to 66, with a median age of 22.

Ruby Johnson learned the hard way of the effect flavored tobacco can have on youth after her daughter was hospitalized for a week after vaping. The New Lenox mother told her 18-year-old’s story to the Senate committee in hopes of showing the harm the substance has on everyday families.

“Our kids should not be used an experiment,” Johnson said. “These products were allowed to flood the market without anyone knowing how they would cause damage and now we’re trying to clean up the mess. We have a generation of teens addicted to nicotine, people continuing to get sick, and according to the CDC, no definitive answer as to the culprit responsible for these cases.”

Cullerton is the lead sponsor of SB668 and said he is working to round up the votes for approval.

Senate President John J. Cullerton heard testimony from stakeholders on legislation that would ban the sale of flavored tobacco products during the Senate Executive Committee Tuesday.

Senate Bill 668

According to the Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids, 97% of current youth e-cigarette users have used a flavored e-cigarette and 70% of current youth e-cigarette users say they use the product because they like the flavors.

The measure will be brought up for a vote at a later date.