The Michigan Advance: Tlaib on vaping epidemic: ‘Kids are used as guinea pigs’

September 24, 2019
In The News

WASHINGTON — U.S. Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-Detroit) warned on Tuesday that American kids have become “guinea pigs” for e-cigarettes.

Tlaib, a member of the U.S. House Oversight and Reform Committee, assailed tobacco companies for marketing their vaping products as “totally safe.” She spoke at a hearing in which lawmakers examined the health problems associated with e-cigarette use.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer made Michigan the first state in the nation to ban flavored nicotine vaping products, citing their negative health impacts and their appeal to minors.

“My home state of Michigan became the first to ban flavored e-cigarettes,” Tlaib said Tuesday. “This came after news of e-cigarette smokers showing up at emergency rooms with shortness of breath chest pain, coughing, vomiting.”

As of last week, 38 states and one territory had reported 530 confirmed and probable cases of lung disease associated with e-cigarette use or vaping, Anne Schuchat, the principal deputy director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention testified to Congress on Tuesday. Michigan is among the states where lung injury has been reported.

There have been seven reported deaths of patients who had been hospitalized with lung disease with a history of recent e-cigarette or other vaping product use.

As officials scramble to understand the health impacts of vaping products, there’s been a continued increase in the rise of e-cigarette use among youth. E-cigarette use among high school students increased by 77.8% from 2017 to 2018, according to Schuchat.

In 2019, she said, more than a quarter of high school students were e-cigarette users — a steep increase since 2017. The U.S. surgeon general last year declared a youth vaping epidemic.

“Those kids are used as guinea pigs,” Tlaib said. “I truly believe that we’ve become testing ground, the American public, most disturbingly our American youth. And right now there’s so much that we do not know about the long-term impact of e-cigarettes.”

Tlaib warned that the products had been allowed onto the market with little regulation and advertised as safer alternatives to cigarettes.

“This is very scary,” she said.

The CDC has advised people to consider refraining from using e-cigarettes while officials investigate the lung illnesses that appear tied to the products.

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