Students plan to lobby for tougher e-cig regulations

Tuesday , December 22, 2015 - 12:59 PM

By LORETTA PARK
Standard-Examiner staff

KAYSVILLE — The health of teens who use e-cigarettes concerns one Davis teenager enough that he is spearheading a grass-roots lobbying effort to get stricter regulations and laws passed in Utah.

But Cade Hyde is very much aware he is going up against tobacco companies that have millions of dollars to spend on professional lobbyists who will work against him. He is organizing the Students Against Electronic Vaping (SAEV), a statewide coalition, which he hopes will be in full swing in one month when the 2016 Utah Legislature begins.

The group Hyde is forming will lobby for a bill Rep. Paul Ray, R-Clinton, plans to sponsor to make it tougher for teenagers to buy e-cigarettes, put restrictions on advertising the products and place a hefty sales tax on e-cigarettes.

“I have friends who use e-cigarettes and they’re struggling,” said Hyde, student body president at Davis High School.

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Hyde said he didn’t know how bad the problem of e-cigarettes was until he heard a presentation at his school by Michael Siler, a registered lobbyist and president of Practical Strategic Solutions Utah. 

Siler said studies have shown that the percentage of e-cigarette-using teenagers in Utah between the ages of 13 and 18 has almost doubled in two years. In 2013, 12 percent of Utah teenagers used e-cigarettes on a daily basis. Now about 22 percent of teenagers are using the devices, he said. 

“The numbers are growing exponentially,” Siler told a group of students, school administrators, parents and city officials who met recently at Davis High School for the SAEV kickoff meeting.

Hyde told the group, which included students from Clearfield, Syracuse, Viewmont and Woods Cross high schools, he hopes students and parents across the state will join the coalition so they will be a loud voice at the Legislature.

Silar said 22,000 teenagers in Utah reported this year they are regular users of e-cigarettes. 

Nationally, e-cigarette use in that age group tripled from 2013 to 2014, according to a report by the Centers for Disease Control. In 2013 there were about 660,000 high school students, about 4.5 percent in that age group, who regularly used the product. In 2014, that jumped to 2 million students, or 13.4 percent in that age group. The use among middle school students saw a similar increase. In 2013, 120,000 students, or 1.1 percent used e-cigarettes, but in 2014 approximately 450,000 students, or 3.9 percent, reported using them.

It’s not just the number of teenagers who are using e-cigarettes that is a concern, but the amount of nicotine and chemicals used to make the “juice” or vapor is also a problem, Ray said.

Ray’s 2015 regulating e-cigarette products was passed by lawmakers, but without any increased taxes. Ray said when the price of tobacco products increases, the number of teenagers who use them also decreases. 

Opponents to regulating e-cigarettes have said they have helped them quit smoking cigarettes. 

The chemicals used to make the juice “are more dangerous” than what is used in traditional tobacco products, Ray said. Also, he said, not all juices labeled “nicotine-free” are nicotine free.

Ray said the Davis County Health Department pulled 50 samples from shops and found that 80 percent of supposed nicotine-free blends had nicotine in them. 

The liquid comes in more than 7,700 flavors, which include bubble gum, root beer, gummy bear and cotton candy, Silar said.

“They cater to children,” Silar said. “These are flavors that appeal to kids.”

Ray said tobacco companies want to get kids addicted to e-cigarettes “because if they don’t, they will go out of business.” 

“This is not a moral issue,” Ray told the group. “This is a health issue.” 

Hyde said he was shocked to learn that nicotine poisoning from e-cigarettes has increased dramatically across the nation in the past few years.

Poison control centers nationally reported the number of calls involving e-cigarette liquids containing nicotine rose from one per month in September 2010 to 215 per month in February 2014, according to a CDC report. More than half those calls involved children under 5 years old and 42 percent of the poison calls involved people over the age of 20. 

Poisoning related to e-cigarettes involving young children happens either through ingestion, inhalation or absorption through the eyes and skin, according to the report.

You can reach reporter Loretta Park at lpark@standard.net or at 801-625-4252. Follow her on Twitter at @LorettaParkSE or like her on Facebook.

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