‘A much larger business’ — Md. panel hears about the extent of vaping

Maryland’s comptroller is on a mission to learn all he can about vaping.

As vaping-related illnesses began to rise nationwide, Comptroller Peter Franchot had to admit, he didn’t know a lot about it.

“As the chief tobacco regulator in the state of Maryland, I have very little idea what exactly are in the products that are being sold right now in the state of Maryland,” he said.

So, he’s created the E-Facts Task Force, which held its first meeting Wednesday. “My hope is that this task force will prove invaluable to government officials as we attempt to put an end to the unnecessary havoc that these electronic smoking devices are causing, and open conversations across industries on building a safer and more effective market surrounding these products,” said Franchot.

At the meeting, Franchot got an earful from a number of people, including Jeff Kelly, director of the Comptroller of Maryland’s Field Enforcement Division.

“You should be aware that this is not a problem of 100 businesses selling smoke devices,” said Kelly. “It’s a much larger business in Maryland.”

Doctors, researchers and medical personnel recommended various measures, from restricting vaping at various age levels all the way up to banning specific items that are used in vaping, such as the flavored liquids.

But Matt Milby of the Maryland Vapor Alliance said that the liquids that are blamed for making vaping so attractive to adolescents are the same liquids that helped people like him break their cigarette smoking habit for good.

“Vaping was unsuccessful for me in the beginning because I didn’t find the right flavor,” said Milby. “Then, when I found the right flavor, the right milligram, the right device, then I was able to get successfully off cigarettes. It only took me a week, and I had started smoking when I was 7 years old.”

The number of children vaping in Maryland may come as a surprise.

“Our most recent Maryland data is from 2017 and [said] 13.3% of high school students used [electronic smoking devices] and about 8% used cigarettes,” said Kathleen Hoke, a professor at the University of Maryland’s Francis King Carey School of Law. “I expect next year’s numbers to show an increase.”

Nationwide, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported 2,290 cases of vaping-related illness and 47 deaths. The Maryland Health Department reported 53 cases of vaping-related illnesses as of Nov. 26.

The task force will hold three more meetings over the next couple of months before possibly making recommendations for the future of vaping regulations to the governor and legislature.

This article was written by WTOP’s news partners at Maryland Matters and republished with permission. Sign up for Maryland Matters’ free email subscription today.

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