COLUMBUS – Ohio Governor Mike DeWine is calling on state lawmakers to ban the sale of flavored e-cigarettes in the state.
In a press conference Tuesday, DeWine said the move is part of an effort to combat vaping-related illness and to reduce nicotine addiction, especially among young people.
Teen use of e-cigarettes has skyrocketed, with the Centers for Disease Control reporting more than one in four high school students vape.
“Today, I am specifically asking members of the General Assembly to continue our work together in protecting Ohio's children from addiction by banning flavored e-cigarette products including menthol and mint,” DeWine said.
DeWine noted most young people who vape use flavored products. He said a ban aims to reduce the number of young people obtaining flavored e-cigarettes. A ban on the sale of all tobacco and vaping products to people under 21 years old is set to take effect October 17.
“If we can eliminate the flavors, we think we can make some progress in regard to young people, while at the same time allowing adults who make that choice to continue to do so,” DeWine said.
As of Tuesday, the Ohio Department of Health reported 22 vaping-related hospitalizations in the state, with 19 additional cases of vaping-related illness still under investigation.
The CDC is investigating more than 800 vaping-related cases nationwide.
Among patients providing data on substances used in e-cigarettes, 36 percent reported exclusive use of THC-containing products, while 16 percent reported exclusive use of products containing nicotine.
Health officials said vaping devices expose users to harmful metals and flavorings can contain toxic chemicals, such as diacetyl, a buttery-flavored chemical used to flavor microwave popcorn.
“That aerosol is going in your lungs, it's cooling the lung temperature, it's basically hardening,” said Ohio Department of Health Director Dr. Amy Acton. “So, if you imagine butter hardening back in your lungs, that's what you're up against.”
Five states, including Michigan and New York, have already implemented some sort of ban on e-cigarette products.
In calling on the legislature to act, DeWine said he and his legal team “do not feel we have the authority” to enact a ban through executive order.
DeWine said, as of Monday, the state began requiring mandatory reporting of vaping-related illness. The state also issued an alert to medical marijuana dispensaries and patients that vaping devices may be restricted.
Acton said medical marijuana has been tied to some vaping-related illnesses in other states, but in Ohio, 90 percent of patients said they used an elicit product, and many are mixing products.
DeWine also said he sent a letter to the Food and Drug Administration asking for it to take swift action on President Trump’s call for a ban of flavored e-cigarettes.
He also said he is sending letters to presidents of all of the state’s public colleges and universities, asking them to beef up their smoke-free policies and rules on vaping.
On September 23, Republican State Rep. Tom Patton, of Strongsville, introduced two bills designed to place restrictions on vaping products statewide, including a ban on flavored e-cigarettes.
House Bill 346 is a proposal to "prohibit the sale of flavored electronic smoking devices and flavored vapor products" in Ohio.
House Bill 347 would put restrictions on retailers, prohibiting products from being openly displayed and banning anyone under 21 from entering a vaping establishment.