As you may have seen in recent national news, vaping has had some dangerous outcomes making headlines. The U.S. Center for Disease Control's most recent report tells us that as of Nov 7., there have been 2,051 vaping-related serious lung injury illnesses, including nine confirmed cases here in North Dakota, and 40 vaping-attributed deaths coming from 49 out of our 50 states, with only Alaska incident-free at the time of this report.

While many are speculating on the cause of these cases and the ingredients responsible, the truth of the matter is that it’s the wild, wild, west out there when it comes to vaping products. Electronic nicotine delivery systems, vaping, e-cigarettes, JUUL, electronic tobacco products, and many other names are used to describe the newest tobacco products, and they vary widely in design and use. One thing they do all have in common is that currently they are not subjected to the same rules and regulations as traditional tobacco products, such as cigarettes and cigars. Currently, there are no regulations around manufacturing, formulation, labeling or nicotine content levels for electronic tobacco products. Also, to date, no electronic tobacco product has been approved for, or even applied for, designation as an FDA-approved cessation device. In fact, the FDA has been tied up in litigation for years, after attempting to grandfather in the electronic products to some existing tobacco regulations.

This tells me the time is now for North Dakota to step up and put policy protections in place for our citizens. In N.D., electronic tobacco products are not classified as such, and so do not require any licensing or monitoring for retailers, wholesalers or manufactures. They are not subject to compliance checks for underage sales alongside other tobacco products. And, they also aren’t taxed the same as other tobacco products, costing our state lost revenue and creating an unfair competitive advantage for certain businesses. All of these policies would give a layer of accountability to wholesalers and retailers, and they would allow ND to see the scope of sales and use in our state, as well as give ND resources to offset the tax burden tobacco-related illness and death cost our state every year.

RELATED

WDAY logo
listen live
watch live

Our local public health units and health officials have been diligently working to provide education, resources and cessation services across our state to stem the tide of this FDA-labeled epidemic. Recent polling shows that ND citizens want parity across all types of tobacco products, with 74.4% saying electronic products should be taxed the same as other tobacco, and 89.4% saying it is not OK for these products to be used by youth. Tobacco classification, licensing and price parity are great steps forward to supporting reduction in use. Let’s offer our support by reaching out to elected officials at local and state levels to ask these tobacco prevention and control policies be put in place sooner rather than later.

If the public wishes to hear more about the work being done in North Dakota, I invite you to join me from 7 to 8 p.m. Dec. 2 at Broadway Station, 1461 Broadway in Fargo, for a panel on local and state responses to youth vaping.

Boschee represents Fargo's District 44 in North Dakota's House of Representatives.