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Vaping concerns UWRF officials and local business

September 18, 2019

More than two dozen Wisconsin residence that found their breathing patterns interrupted by illness linked to ingredients in their e-cigarette, according to health officials.

At the UW-River Falls campus, about 10% of students vaped either nicotine or THC in the past 30 days, according to the latest statistics from the National College Health Assessment.  The campus has policies in place to prevent vaping.

“Our tobacco free campus policy covers e-cigarette use as well. We changed the language and just updated the policy so on the newer signage it says vaping instead,” said Keven Syverson, director of Health Promotions.

The main increase has been seen at the High School level. According to the state Department of Health Services, In Wisconsin, e-cigarette use among high school students increased by 154% between 2014 and 2018.

Action has been taken at the federal level. According to the New York Times, the Food and Drug Administration plans to create a plan in the coming weeks for “removing flavored e-cigarettes and nicotine pods from the market, excluding tobacco flavors. The ban would include mint and menthol, popular varieties that manufacturers have argued should not be considered flavors.”

“There’s some regulations coming down the pike as we’re starting to see the effects of vaping,” said Syverson.

Donald Golightly, co-owner of Puff Puff Glass and Big Top Vape in downtown River Falls, is concerned by these new regulations. “I quit smoking using flavored e-cigarettes. I quit smoking over six years ago and right now I hardly even vape anymore. I know the worry is about targeting minors, but we have a perfect record here with the county as far as checking ID’s.”

Golightly continued, “They regularly send young people in who are underage, and we’ve never had an issue since our employees are diligent about checking. I would hate to see them take the flavored options out of the hands of people who are adults.”

Though there has been public health concerns, Golightly hasn’t seen a slow in business. He believes that the illnesses are related to people purchasing products from untrusted sources.

“From what I understand, and we’ve read an awful lot about it, most of what they’re talking about is people using illicit THC concentrate vape cartridges that they’re getting on the black market. Some cases have been with simply vape products, but we haven’t had anyone get sick here. We sell nothing but premium products that come from FDA approved manufacturers.” Golightly continued, “Personally, I think if your kids are using illicit substances, that is a problem that starts in the home.”

If the flavors e-juice is banned, Golightly believes the store will focus its energy on their glass and CBD products. “We do tell our customers you’re not suppose to breathe anything but oxygen. We like to offer people a variety of products if they’re so inclined. We do try to promote a safe environment and safe products.

According to the Wisconsin Department of Health Services, those who fell ill presented symptoms of cough and shortness of breath. Symptoms worsened with time, and some patients experienced fever, anorexia, diarrhea, nausea, and other complications.

Health investigators are still working to pinpoint what has entered into the supply of vaping products. “Hopefully that myth out there that it’s safer than cigarettes is going to be debunked a little bit through some of these things,” said Syverson.

For students who are looking to quit vaping, there are many resources available. Syverson recommends going to TruthInitive.org. Students can also text “Ditch Juul” to 88709 to get methods on how to quit. “It helps with cravings, stress, and slips. It’s a resource that we haven’t had before,” said Syverson. Health Services plans to put more emphasis on these resources for students.