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By: Diane Bernard/Scott Herron, Public News Service
BALTIMORE – As the number of vaping related illnesses continues to rise, Maryland is looking to join five other states in banning the sale and marketing of e-cigarettes.
The legislation is sponsored in the House of Delegates by Prince George’s County Democrat Dereck Davis and is planned for the next General Assembly session starting next month.
It calls for a partial or all-out ban on the tobacco products and also targets menthol cigarettes and flavored cigars, according to Laura Hale, government relations director of the Maryland chapter of the American Heart Association.
Hale says that in addition to tackling a public health crisis, the potential ban is a fight for social justice.
“Communities of color have been targeted, especially around menthol cigarettes and flavored little cigars, for decades,” she states. “And so if we don’t include those products, we’re leaving those communities behind that have been so targeted by the industry.”
As of Nov. 20, more than 2,000 people in the nation had been sickened from e-cigarettes and 47 deaths were reported to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, including 23 illnesses in Maryland.
Davis’ proposal comes just after the state raised the age for purchasing tobacco products from 18 to 21.
The move also coincides with the American Heart Association’s new campaign, called Quit Lying, aimed at addressing youth e-cigarette use and targeting misleading advertising by vaping companies.
E-cigarette use among young people has exploded, with research showing that about one in four high school students in the nation uses e-cigarettes.
Towson High School junior Elliot Morton is witnessing this firsthand.
“I just see it as such a problem in our schools, and it all started as a trend, and most trends you see they go away pretty quickly, but vaping never went away because people are addicted,” he states.
After his uncle died from lung cancer, Morton says he joined the fight to raise the state’s smoking age to 21, hoping to prevent more deaths from tobacco products.