Life Stories

Illinois lawmakers introduce bill that would educate youth on vaping

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CHICAGO — The Center for Disease reports that so far this year, 52 people have died of vaping-related lung illness and 2,400 have been hospitalized. It’s a crisis and Washington is trying to respond.

Four months ago, New Lennox’s Ruby Johnson’s 18-year-old daughter, Piper, on her way to college from to begin her freshman year got sick.

“What was supposed to be one of the most joyful times of her young life and an exciting rite of passage for us as a family, turned into a terrifying near death experience that involved a long hospital stay,” Ruby Johnson said.

Piper Johnson was coughing and complaining of pain in her chest when she took a deep breath. She also began to shiver. She was rushed to the hospital where her condition worsened.  The diagnosis: Sudden and severe lung illness.

“Finally they asked, ‘How about e-cigarettes?’” Ruby Johnson said. “Her answer to that question was yes though it wasn’t until we got to the third doctor that answered seemed to be taken seriously.”

Piper Johnson had been using e-cigarettes, vaping on and off for 18 months.

“It’s terrifying that there’s an industry full of largely unregulated products that are not only accessible to youth but are so desirable due in part to the unbelievable array of flavors,” Ruby Johnson said.

Congress has turned its attention to vaping.

Senator Dick Dubrin and Representative Raja Krishnamoorthi are introducing a bill to create youth vaping prevention programs in schools.

“The meteoric rise in youth vaping has become a national public health crisis,” Krishnamoorthi said.

“The Prevent Act will create new federal grants programs to provide states and schools with the funding they need to prevent and reduce e-cigarette use among kids,” Durbin said.

The bill is funded by placing a fee on manufacturers and importers of e-cigarettes.

“These companies like Juul have targeted our children with dessert and fruit flavors – mango, cool cucumber, minisation, cotton candy, gummy bears, the list goes on and on,” Durbin said.

Flavors that people against vaping say attract teens.

This week, Illinois Attorney General Kwame Raoul filed a consumer fraud lawsuit against Juul Labs, alleging the company targets minors.