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Stopping teen vaping in Utah needs more effort according to state leaders

(Attorney General Sean Reyes, left, and Governor Gary Herbert, right, speaking in the Capitol Gold Room. Credit: Paul Nelson)

UTAH STATE CAPITOL – State leaders say, despite their best efforts in stopping teen vaping, the number of teens who admit to vaping in Utah continues to climb.  The governor and several lawmakers are backing new bills that could make it harder for teens to get e-cigarettes.

Among the people calling for tighter restrictions on e-cig sales was Katie Bertram.  The 20-year-old admits she’s addicted to nicotine and it didn’t take long for that to happen.  She started vaping when she was 19 because she watched her friends do it.  At first, she convinced herself she would only do it on special occasions.

“It turned into an everyday thing,” Bertram says.  “I was doing it on my work breaks.  I was doing it on my way to school and on my way home.”

She noticed she was out of breath when she tried to do the activities she had always loved, like skiing.  She tried to quit several times, but her withdrawal cravings were too intense.

“I couldn’t admit that I was addicted, but, the truth is that I had to have it, always,” she says.

Bertram supports adding a tax on vaping products because they’re actually more affordable to teens than regular cigarettes are.  She also says flavors like Pina Colada and Tooty Fruity make them extremely enticing to kids.  Marc Watterson with the American Heart Association agrees.

He says, “It was the flavors that got them interested, but, it was the nicotine that kept them hooked.”

Watterson says over 12% of kids in 8th, 10th and 12th grades admit to vaping, and those numbers are likely under-reported.  That translates to over 37 thousand school kids struggling with nicotine addiction.

(Vaping items reportedly taken from students at Herriman High School this school year. Credit: Paul Nelson)

Educators at Herriman High School say they saw a trickle of students vaping turn into a flood.  Vice Principal Stuart Hudnall says many of their students are getting addicted and they don’t know where to turn for help.

“What’s scary for us is the amount of nicotine in there.  Instead of having to smoke a whole pack of cigarettes, they’re getting it in a few puffs of those e-cigarettes,” he says.

Some of the anti-vaping bills being proposed this year include…

  • HB 22 – Establishing a “no tolerance” policy for selling nicotine to children.
  • SB 37 – Establishing a new tax on nicotine products which would be used to hire more officers to enforce violations.
  • HB 118 – Establishing rules requiring stores that sell vaping products to move them into age-restricted areas.