UNTHSC hosts panel discussion on e-cigarettes, vaping
By Diane Smith
Health experts, lawmakers and community leaders recently gathered at the UNT Health Science Center to discuss how to prevent vaping-related deaths and limit teen access to e-cigarettes – a public discussion that came two months after Texas reported its first vaping-illness death.
“This is a full blown public health crisis,” said U.S. Sen. John Cornyn after the recent roundtable discussion held at the Fort Worth campus. “We need to recognize it as such. We are not talking about informed choices made by consenting adults. We are talking about a campaign to addict children to nicotine.”
Cornyn said he wants to block online sales of e-cigarettes to teens and children. That is central to bipartisan legislation introduced by Cornyn and several Democratic lawmakers.
The bill would require e-cigarette online retailers to verify the age of customers for purchases, require an adult with ID to be present for delivery, label shipping packages to show they contain tobacco products and comply with all state and local tobacco tax requirements.
When the proposed laws were announced last April, Cornyn said there was “a dramatic” increase in electronic cigarette use among high school students last year.
Cornyn cited a recent survey published in the American Journal of Health Promotion found that 32 percent of underage users of e-cigarette reporter purchasing products online, making online sales the single largest source of purchases for underage users.
“This is an important panel and opportunity for education around this very important topic of e-cigarettes and the impact they are having on our health in the U.S.,” Dr. Michael Williams, president of UNTHSC said during a press conference held after the discussion. “The health science center is committed to this problem.”
Williams said the university is involved heavily in research surrounding e-cigarettes and vaping.
Roundtable participants also included: Fort Worth Mayor Betsy Price; Dr. Tracey Barnett, associate professor and associate dean for academic affairs in the UNTHSC School of Public Health; Dr. Karen Schultz, director of pulmonary services at Cook Children’s Medical Center; Kay Kamm, American Cancer Society; Cami Thompson, executive director of the American Heart Association in Tarrant County; Vinny Taneja, director of public health Tarrant County and Anna Carey, a 16-year-old former e-cigarette user.
Preventing more vaping-related deaths is going to take community-wide efforts that includes working with schools to educate children about the potential dangers of e-cigarettes and well as more government oversight of vaping products said several roundtable participants.
Carey, who was recently treated for chemically induced pneumonia related to her vaping use, described how she became addicted. She said she also supplied other teens with e-cigarettes – an action she now regrets.
“That’s on my conscience,” Carey said.