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Quick reactions to a perceived crisis can easily result in bad laws

Monday, Sep 9, 2019

* Charles Selle at the News-Sun

If more than 400 people came down with symptoms of E. coli bacteria from tainted vegetables, state health officials would be pulling products from store shelves. Surprisingly, they continue allowing e-cigarettes to damage the lungs of Illinoisans.

The latest person to be hospitalized with a respiratory illness after using electric cigarettes — aka, vaping — is an 18-year-old Gurnee resident, Adam Hergenreder. He might be released from the hospital by now, but his lungs are those of a 70-year-old, according to his doctors.

Granted, young Adam admitted in a front-page News-Sun story last week that he’s been vaping since he was 16, and partial to mint and mango flavors. Last year, he says he began smoking sold-on-the-street “dab sticks,” THC-filled devices made for e-cigs. […]

Which is why Gov. J.B. Pritzker needs to immediately ban the use of e-cigarettes in Illinois. There’s mounting scientific evidence these devices are, putting it mildly, unhealthful. […]

Michigan’s Democrat governor didn’t wait to convene a scientific panel to issue a ban on e-cigs in the Wolverine State. Last week, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer made her state the first to ban flavored electronic cigarettes, accusing companies of using candy flavors and deceptive advertising to “hook children on nicotine,” the AP reported.

* Pritzker administration statement

The Governor has convened a working group of medical and legal experts to study the scientific evidence so they can develop long-term solutions to keep Illinoisans safe and healthy. So far, this administration has worked with the General Assembly to raise the smoking age to 21 and made e-cigarettes and vaping much more difficult for young people to get their hands on.

1) When e-coli cases pop up, the government can usually trace the outbreak to its origin and then act accordingly. That simply isn’t the case here, and that’s what is unnerving some folks.

2) That “more than 400 people” number cited is nationwide, not Illinois alone. Yes, one person has apparently died in Illinois from likely vape usage, but nobody yet knows what was in the fluid or vaping device that caused this.

3) Cigarettes kill more than 1,300 people a day in this country and more than 480,000 per year. In 2017, 7.6 percent of Illinois high school kids smoked cigarettes. There is perhaps no greater health emergency tied to a specific product than that.

4) The process is moving forward

“The severity of illness people are experiencing is alarming and we must get the word out that using e-cigarettes and vaping can be dangerous,” said Dr. Ngozi Ezike, director of the Illinois Department of Public Health. “We requested a team from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to help us investigate these cases and they arrived in Illinois on Tuesday.”

A total of 22 people in Illinois, ranging in age from 17-38 years, have experienced respiratory illness after using e-cigarettes or vaping, the department said. The department is working with local health departments to investigate another 12 individuals.

5) As noted, vaping is now illegal in Illinois for anyone under 21.

6) Michigan’s governor got a lot of national press for ordering the halt of all flavored vape sales, but it’s not as simple as some are making it seem

(T)he rule will likely face court challenges and review by the state legislature.

It’s also a temporary rule, so the state legislature will have to weigh in.

* Some suburban kids are getting sick and that’s sure to set off major political alarm bells and can easily lead to rash actions which enshrine bad policy into law.

Vaping additives are problematic because consumers simply don’t know what they are ingesting. Maybe start there first, although that still won’t solve the problem with the underground market.

- Posted by Rich Miller        

  1. - Not a Superstar - Monday, Sep 9, 19 @ 11:29 am:

    The law of unintended consequences is veto-proof.

  2. - SAP - Monday, Sep 9, 19 @ 11:32 am:

    That story about the 18-year old kid who put an extra half-century of mileage on his lungs is frightening/scary/sad/awful.

  3. - 47th Ward - Monday, Sep 9, 19 @ 11:34 am:

    ===Michigan’s Democrat governor…===

    Yeah, I stopped reading after that. Anything that follows is inherently suspect.

  4. - Techie - Monday, Sep 9, 19 @ 11:54 am:

    I’m glad someone else is out there calling to halt these knee-jerk reactions to the issue. We don’t know what specifically is causing these illnesses, and someone like the Michigan governor jumping to conclusions and trying to ban things before knowing what’s really going on is just bad policy and will probably hurt people in the process.

    Let’s acknowledge that the illnesses are disturbing, but also wait to take action until we actually know what is causing them. People have been vaping for many, many years so it’s unlikely that e-cigs in general are the problem, and much more likely to be some particular bad product/substance used in some products. For instance, there’s been a lot of recent coverage over the possibility that vitamin E acetate could be the culprit. Even then, we’re only at the beginning stage of thinking this could be the problem, and have no firm conclusions.

  5. - Jocko - Monday, Sep 9, 19 @ 11:58 am:

    Q: Who’d have thunk that ingesting nicotine (or THC) in a heated aerosol form would be detrimental to one’s health?

    A: Pretty much everybody.

  6. - twowaystreet - Monday, Sep 9, 19 @ 12:04 pm:

    I quit smoking cigarettes and started using e-cigarettes roughly four months ago. I no longer have a smokers cough and generally feel better.

    Until the research gives us a clearer path on the cause, I hope to see Illinois continue their focus on reducing youth smoking. Knee-jerk reactions rarely give us policies that actually address the cause of the issue.

  7. - lake county democrat - Monday, Sep 9, 19 @ 12:09 pm:

    To repeat a comment from an earlier post, while the FDA has taken a largely anti-vaping stance, the U.K. government’s counterpart has been much more positive. While long-term dangers from vaping are definitely unknown, these pols are ridiculously conflating dodgy (sorry, brain still in the UK) street-level stuff from unknown sources with e-cigs made by huge tobacco growers/manufacturers.

  8. - Roman - Monday, Sep 9, 19 @ 12:14 pm:

    Going slow is good advice. It seems a number of these incidents are related to homemade, THC-infused vapes. That’s kinda the equivalent of getting sick from drinking bathtub gin. We wouldn’t put Gordon’s and Tanqueray out of business if the latter happens, not sure we should end all vaping because the former has happened.

    Not saying there isn’t a public health concern here — there definitely is. Let’s just get all the facts.

  9. - SammyG - Monday, Sep 9, 19 @ 12:35 pm:

    An even bigger health risk than vaping or cigarettes is the effect soft drinks and candy are having on obesity, heart disease, and diabetes. But nobody is willing to do anything about that.

  10. - Cheryl44 - Monday, Sep 9, 19 @ 12:58 pm:

    The point of mango flavored vape fluid is to hook teenagers in nicotine. I appreciate the Democratic governor of Michigan for banning flavored vape fluid.

  11. - Just Observing - Monday, Sep 9, 19 @ 1:09 pm:

    === The point of mango flavored vape fluid is to hook teenagers in nicotine. ===

    Maybe. But lots of adults enjoy flavored vape fluid as well.

  12. - Techie - Monday, Sep 9, 19 @ 1:33 pm:

    @Just Observing

    Bingo. I know people who used to smoke cigarettes who switched to vaping, and that was made much easier with flavored juices. Is it possible those flavors appeal to youth? Of course. But for someone like Cheryl44 to say, “The point of mango flavored vape fluid is to hook teenagers in nicotine.” No, the point of mango flavored vape juice is to get people to enjoy vaping so they will do it instead of smoking. It does have the side-effect of being appealing to people who maybe shouldn’t be doing it, but let’s not confuse the purpose of it.

    One thing discussions like these also fail to mention is this: nicotine itself is not harmful to the body. It’s a stimulant like caffeine, but it’s not a toxin and doesn’t damage the body. All of the other crap that is in some vape juices could easily be harmful. But for people using vegetable glycerin-based juices with flavors extracted from plants (essential oils), there might be little to no harm from them.

    I would like to see studies done on the health effects of all the different substances currently used in vaping products, but until we know more, it’s irresponsible of people to slam the door on vaping altogether which does help many smokers quit smoking.

  13. - cover - Monday, Sep 9, 19 @ 1:35 pm:

    = An even bigger health risk than vaping or cigarettes is the effect soft drinks and candy are having on obesity, heart disease, and diabetes. But nobody is willing to do anything about that. =

    Toni Preckwinkle tried to do something about but was forced to backtrack due to overwhelming public opposition.

  14. - Lester Holt’s Mustache - Monday, Sep 9, 19 @ 1:57 pm:

    Anecdotal, but worth considering: I used the vape to kick cigs a few years back. I was discussing this with one of the folks at the place I go, Tribble vapors. They sell flavored products (I also prefer mango, Cheryl44), but not THC-infused. He told me that in the three and a half years they’ve been in business, they’ve never had a single complaint about their products causing health issues. Nanny staters should be leery of forcing legitimate businesses to close just so they can claim they’re “doing something”. If they try to treat a black market problem with a blanket ban, it likely will not accomplish anything beyond sending people to the unemployment line.

  15. - Jocko - Monday, Sep 9, 19 @ 2:46 pm:

    ==Nanny staters should be leery of forcing legitimate businesses to close==

    You do realize e-cigarettes are essentially unregulated, don’t you? Phillip Morris just completed a PRE-market application (PMTA) on 4/30/19.

  16. - Lester Holt’s Mustache - Monday, Sep 9, 19 @ 3:12 pm:

    ==You do realize==

    These businesses are regulated by the state, are inspected and even targeted with investigations to make sure they card people. You haven’t noticed yet that there are hundreds of these shops already operating throughout Illinois, employing thousands of people? Don’t get me wrong, if you really need official approval from Donald Trump’s FDA to make you feel better about a particular industry, that’s fine. But don’t allow yourself to be fooled into thinking that a whole lot of people might lose their jobs with a blanket ban, while these “dab sticks” will still be sold to teens on the street by drug dealers.

  17. - Jocko - Monday, Sep 9, 19 @ 5:23 pm:

    ==These businesses are regulated by the state==

    Other than being an adult (18 or 21, depending on the state), I would argue there are no standards on devices or the contents of pods/cartridges.

    Other than not being immediately toxic (or, for the moment, containing THC), you don’t know what chemical compound you are ingesting.

  18. - revvedup - Monday, Sep 9, 19 @ 5:34 pm:

    Techie has it wrong: Nicotine is a poison, see for example:

  19. - Career Politician 2.0 - Monday, Sep 9, 19 @ 11:45 pm:

    =Vaping additives are problematic because consumers simply don’t know what they are ingesting. Maybe start there first, although that still won’t solve the problem with the underground market.=

    How about requiring vape products to be registered with the state? If there is a problem with a regulated product, then it’s easy to trace. And if it’s a black market product, then fines for not being registered/regulated.

  20. - Stuntman Bob's Brother - Tuesday, Sep 10, 19 @ 12:23 am:


  21. - Robert M Roman - Tuesday, Sep 10, 19 @ 5:51 am:

    At the risk of being accused of “whataboutism,” please note that the curing of tobacco and the manufacture of regular cigarettes usually results in a product that includes additives of dubious safety.

    Just sayin’

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