Cabell-Huntington Health Department explores ways to reduce underage vaping

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HUNTINGTON, W.Va. (WOWK) – With the national outbreak of lung illnesses and deaths relating to vaping, a local health department in West Virginia wants to stop its local youth from using it.

Vaping used to be seen as a healthy alternative to tobacco cigarettes, but with the growing number of health concerns, the Cabell-Huntington Health Department is alarmed by the increasing number of high school students in the county using it. Physician Director at the Cabell-Huntington Health Department Dr. Michael Kilkenny says more than 1/4 of high school students in Cabell County are using vaping products

The latest Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report shows more than 800 cases of vaping-related lung illnesses in 46 states and 12 deaths. 22 percent of the patients are between the ages of 18 to 21, and 16 percent are under the age of 18.

Dr. Kilkenny says, “I think that it is clear that the marketing targets younger people and the sales are occurring amongst younger people”.

The department’s governing board of health is currently exploring three options to reduce the use of vaping products with underage adults, including adopting a resolution condemning underage vaping as a public health emergency.

Another option is to see what actions are in the works at the state level.
Cabell County Delegate John Mandt jr says he plans on presenting a bill next session to raise the purchase age of vaping to 21 and limit the number of flavors available.

“I introduced a copy to bill drafting, then they will get a copy back to me and I’ll review it. I need to get co-sponsors, and I have had several people interested in co-sponsoring this bill,” Mandt says.

But a similar bill failed on the house floor last session, and Kilkenny says the health board wants to explore what avenues are available to them at a county level in case it happens again. Dr. Kilkenny says, “We know that municipalities within this country have raised the tobacco purchase age to 21”.

Cabell county commissioner Kelli Sobonya says she feels, “This issue is best decided at the state level . . . and has the sufficient authority to provide both the certainty in the legalities and the enforcement.”

The CDC has linked vaping-related lung problems to THC, the active ingredient in marijuana. The agency says 77-percent of the cases it’s studied show the connection.

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