By Stacy Butler
California Governor Gavin Newsom joined the fight against youth vaping, starting with a statewide public awareness campaign as Orange County pediatricians and students said something has to be done.
“The amount of vaping I see increasing last several years is incredible,” Dr. Kate Williamson, a pediatrician at the Children’s Hospital of Orange County, said. “It’s really scary for me as a pediatrician.”
As more teens have become addicted to vaping, Williamson, who is the president of the American Academy of Pediatrics in Orange County, said she has treated more and more teens with lung problems, agitation and anxiety from vaping not only nicotine but CBD oil.
“Once kids start with one, they usually try a combination of things — either individually or all together,” Williamson said. “More than half the teenagers I saw just this afternoon are telling me openly that they’re vaping, let alone the ones who might not be telling me that they’re vaping. The rates are astronomically high.”
In California, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has reported one death and 63 illnesses related to the use of e-cigarettes containing nicotine or cannabis oil.
“This is a huge problem,” Williamson said. “This is a public health epidemic that’s happening right now.”
While the governor does not have the authority to ban all vaping products, the executive order he signed directs the state to spend $20 million on a public awareness campaign about the dangers of vaping.
“It’s really common,” Savannah Jones, a student, said. “People substitute it for cigarettes, so they do it all around campus, and it’s more allowed on campus than cigarettes are too.”
One student said that younger kids are vaping because they believe vaping is better than smoking cigarettes, “but it’s not,” she said.
Newsom asked the California Department of Public Health to raise awareness of the dangers of vaping by putting warning signs not only in stores that sell e-cigarettes but on advertisements. He also said he wants to tax e-cigarettes as much, if not more, than traditional cigarettes.