Members from the Columbia/Boone County Board of Health have requested an immediate moratorium on the sale of all flavored e-cigarette products within Columbia city limits.
The request came at Monday’s Columbia city council meeting. The board of health said their main concern is about the recent data found by the 2018 National Youth Tobacco Survey. It reported that the use of e-cigarettes rose 78% among high school students and 48% among middle school students. According to the NYTS, fruit, menthol/mint and candy flavors are the most popular among the youth.
Kevin Everett is an MU School of Medicine professor who spoke in favor of the ban. He said that he used to believe vapes could steer people away from the dangers of cigarettes and nicotine.
“I’m concerned that that’s not the case. I think there’s things we can do to assure that safety in our community is forefront,” Everett said. According to Everett, the Columbia area has experienced five documented hospital vape-related injuries.
According to the CDC, a sample of 867 patients with information shows that 86% of vape-related cases involve THC-containing products and 34% is exclusive use of THC-containing products. About 64% reported using nicotine-containing products, but only 11% reported exclusive use of nicotine products.
Cameron Hays, a Como Vape Shop employee, said lumping nicotine and THC-containing products together fails to make a distinction between the dangers of THC and vape products.
“By blanket banning something, you’re really creating a lot of problems for people who are using safe alternatives,” Hays said. “So, it’s very important that we make a distinction between what is actually hurting people and what the true concerns are of this topic.”
Aside from the blanket ban, Hays said he was also concerned with the possible action that could have been taken without consulting those individuals at the root of it all: vape store owners.
“Without consulting the people who actually run the shops and are actually selling the product, it just seems one-sided to make decisions without our input,” Hays said.
Second Ward Councilman Mike Trapp said he needed further explanation of the true concerns and the data behind it.
“I need more than just a page and a quarter letter before we infringe on people’s legitimate, harm-reduction strategies in regard to tobacco,” Trapp said.
In addition to needing more information, Trapp also said that there is the concern of an increase in youth vaping.
“But we also have Tobacco 21, where you have to be 21 to purchase. So, I think being more proactive in our enforcement of our existing law seems like banning vape flavors that are largely going to hit adults doesn’t make sense to me,” Trapp said. “If our problem is life-threatening illness because of black market vapes, then increasing the black market vapes doesn’t seem like a great response either.”
Councilmembers did not file an immediate moratorium and said they needed a more detailed report of the main concerns behind the issue.