COLUMBUS — Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine announced Tuesday that he will work with state lawmakers to ban flavored e-cigarettes, which he said are leading children to use these nicotine products at higher levels.
In a news conference, DeWine accused vaping companies of introducing flavors such as orange, bubble gum, mint and chocolate in an attempt to attract children to their products. A few decades ago, when DeWine was in the U.S. Senate, the federal government banned flavored cigarettes based on these same accusations.
“They lure kids with sweet flavors,” DeWine said.
High school students who used e-cigarettes admitted to using the flavored products in large numbers, but the flavors are also popular among adults. According to the New York Times, 85 percent of Juul’s sales in the country come from flavored products.
Many vaping companies worry that their sales will be sharply decreased if flavored products are banned, and some opponents of the legislation have said that former tobacco smokers may go back to smoking regular cigarettes if flavored e-cigarettes are not available.
DeWine said that he was not trying to take away the option for adults to use e-cigarettes to get off smoking, which is why he isn’t seeking to ban the entire product. Rather, he said that the Legislature needs to strike a balance that can respect the wishes of adults, but protect children from nicotine addiction. He said that the effect this will have on Ohio businesses is not yet clear, but that a sale reduction would be a good trade-off if the ban could reduce the use of nicotine products among children.
Although the use of cigarettes has declined rapidly among youth, the use of e-cigarettes has skyrocketed. Since 2017, e-cigarette use among high schoolers has gone up by about 135 percent, DeWine said, which he called “an absolutely dramatic, dramatic increase.”
DeWine said the rise in e-cigarette use causes short-term and long-term problems. There have been 16 deaths in the country linked to vaping and more than 805 vaping-linked illnesses, according to the New York Times.
In the long term, DeWine said vaping could cause children to become addicted to nicotine. Nicotine in children and young adults can harm brain development and is correlated with higher rates of mental illness, such as anxiety and depression.
DeWine also sent a letter Tuesday to the Food and Drug Administration, encouraging them to draft rules on banning e-cigarettes at a federal level. He also sent letters to all Ohio colleges encouraging them to enact policies to create a smoke free campus that also bans the use of e-cigarettes.
Tyler Arnold reports on Virginia and Ohio for The Center Square. He previously worked for the Cause of Action Institute and has been published in Business Insider, USA TODAY College, National Review Online and the Washington Free Beacon.