Idaho lobbyist aims to reduce teen vaping

Officers report seeing vaping in Idaho schools.
Posted at 9:35 PM, Nov 25, 2018
and last updated 2018-11-25 23:38:03-05

In attempt to keep vapes and e-cigarettes out of the hands of minors, the FDA recently announced its plan to ban sales of sweet flavors in convenience stores and gas stations.

FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb has called teen vaping an "epidemic," and sources tell us Idaho's youth is catching on to the nationwide trend as well. On a local level, one lobbyist is making it his priority to minimize the issue.

E-cigarettes were originally developed to help adult smokers quit by providing a way to satisfy nicotine cravings without the carcinogens that come with combustible cigarettes.

So they're a good thing, right? Sources tell us-- not for kids and teens.

"They start using a vape device? Well now they're addicted to nicotine. And they start looking for it in other sources. So now, instead of these products that are marketed to be a way for people to stop using tobacco, it's actually a way that they're introducing tobacco into our schools," said Luke Cavener, the Idaho Director of Government Affairs for the American Cancer Society.

As 6 On Your Side previously reported, one Treasure Valley School Resource Officer says possession of vapes and e-cigs are by far the most common violation of all-- with kids often smoking them in class.

"They take a rubber band, and they rubber band it around their wrist with a long sleeve shirt. And they'll take a puff on it, and as long as they let the smoke out nice and slow, nobody's gonna see it," said Officer Dave Gomez, Meridian Police School Resource Officer at Mountain View High School.

"These products are designed-- ya know-- to look like USB flash drives," said Cavener. "There's products that are on the markets that are solely designed to be concealed from parents-- to be concealed by people in authority-- that's not acceptable for our community."

Cavener says the liquid chemicals in vape devices could hold a separate set of implications.

"There are flavoring alternatives that, um, are being added to these products that create what is known as a 'popcorn lung,'" said Cavener.

But he says-- of vape usage alone-- it's too early to tell what the long-term implications are.

"To make this assumption that we're gonna be able to figure out within the scope of a few months or a couple of years, what is in these products-- and more specifically, the long-term health impacts-- we're not gonna know that for a number of years," said Cavener.

The design of these devices, Cavener says, is just one of the characteristics these companies use to appeal to today's teens.

"They're really using a lot of the same tactics that the tobacco industry used 30, 40 years ago to attract a younger audience."

And in his role as the Idaho Director of Government Affairs for the American Cancer Society, he is actively giving presentations to lawmakers and discussing ways of keeping them out of the hands of Idaho's youth.

"We're excited to work with them either at the local or state level to find the best solution," said Cavener.

Vape company Juul, which currently holds more than 70 percent of U.S. market share, recently said it would improve its online age-verification system to ensure buyers are 21 or older.

They also said they will try to prevent bulk shipments to people who are distributing to minors by restricting customers to two devices per month.