Sen. Lois W. Kolkhorst (R-Brenham), chair of the Senate Committee on Health & Human Services, held a hearing at the state capitol on Tuesday, Dec. 3 to address questions and concerns about the rise in electric "e-cigarette" use and recreational "vaping," especially among minors. The committee was tasked with studying the issue by Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick.
In a press release from Kolkhorst, it said across the nation, e-cigarettes have been linked to lung illnesses and deaths referred to as e-cigarette, or vaping, product use associated lung injury, or "EVALI." It also read that in Texas, there have been 189 confirmed or probable cases and one death attributed to vaping.
The senate panel heard testimony from several experts across the state and nation. Many expressed concerns that minors are using vaping products at a rapidly increasing rate, she said in the press release.
According to reports from the Center for Disease Control, among high school students nationally, e-cigarette use increased from 1.5 percent (2011) to 20.8 percent (2018). In Texas, according to the Department of State Health Services, more than 330,000 middle and high school students reported using e-cigarettes in 2018 which equates to about 13 percent of the state's youth. More recent numbers indicate high school students reporting that one in four have used an electronic cigarettes within the last 30 days.
"We must take a hard look at the impact of e-cigarettes on public health," said Kolkhorst, who represents Wharton County. "It's alarming that so many minors are vaping without understanding the long-term impact to their health and the addiction of nicotine. Texas principals and school administrators testified that the number of high school and middle school students now vaping has more than doubled in the last two years."
In 2018, the Texas Legislature passed Senate Bill 21 raising the age for purchasing tobacco from 18 to 21 years old. The press release said the Senate Committee on Health & Human Services will continue working to determine if additional policies or laws are needed to protect the public's health, especially minors.
"This hearing is the start of a thorough examination about the dangers of vaping. It is important that we chart a new path forward on this issue. As lawmakers, it would be reckless to ignore the dangers to public health, the risks to our young people, and the increased healthcare costs created by this rising trend," Kolkhorst said. "During the seven-hour hearing, doctors and researchers expressed concerns over the unknown ingredients in some e-cigarettes or vapes. I hope every parent realizes the dangers of the epidemic we are facing."
According to the press release, some states are considering label requirements and others are banning flavored e-cigarettes, which are considered an attractant to young vapers. The most popular e-cigarette, JUUL, has recently taken its flavored products off the market and shut down its Instagram and Facebook accounts after warnings from the Food and Drug Administration and public backlash.