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Florida Surgeon General Scott Rivkees is touting Florida's response to the HIV/AIDS crisis.

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Surgeon General sounds alarm on unregulated vaping crisis

Bootleg THC, nicotine vapes to blame

Vaping has become a popular pastime with a body count, and a Florida House committee Wednesday heard about the dangers from experts.

Surgeon General Scott Rivkees told the House Business & Professions Subcommittee that “toxic chemicals and heavy metals” are clear and present dangers leading to a new outbreak in lung disease.

“This is something new,” Rivkees said, including to Florida, which has 70 cases of vaping related lung disease and one death.

Rivkees showed images of chemical burns in lungs, noting that Florida victims are as young as 15.

Over 20 percent of high school students have vaped over the last month, the Surgeon General added.

Vaping devices often resemble USB drives and such, Rivkees said, noting “easy access” to unregulated vape shops in Florida.

Vaping is the No. 2 most abused substance, with marijuana and nicotine vaping spiking in recent years, asserted a speaker from the Department of Children and Families.

Mayo Clinic physician Andras Khoor offered more medical ballast, touting a study on vaping induced diseases.

These stark comments are of a piece with other state leaders who have expressed concern about the practice, most notably Attorney General Ashley Moody.

Moody was out front on the crisis, and as early as June, called on legislators to stiffen penalties.

Indeed, e-cigarettes are not even classified as tobacco products, a position defended by one vape shop owner who called his products “lifesaving technology.”

Moody allowed that statute could address the issue more fully, with “something that has a little more bite to it.”

Required 10-hour educational courses could help parents and students with rehabilitation, Moody suggested.

Moody has turned her attention to the supply side in recent weeks.

The Attorney General announced last week an investigation into 20 electronic cigarette companies, including Juul.

“As a mother, I refuse to sit back and watch while our next generation becomes addicted to another nicotine product,” Moody said. “Two thirds of young people don’t even know these products contain nicotine. We know the use of nicotine can lead to other drugs, and we know the developing brain is affected by the use of nicotine.”

Many states, including states with legalized cannabis, have banned vapes of various types.

Florida, however, isn’t there yet.

The blame game characterized the panels of industry experts that wrapped the committee meeting. A vape shop owner claimed the convenience store industry; a representative from that sector, in turn, blamed online sales.

Written By

A.G. Gancarski has been a working journalist for over two decades. Gancarski has been a correspondent for FloridaPolitics.com since 2014. In 2018, he was a finalist for an Association of Alternative Newsweeklies "best political column." He can be reached at a.g.gancarski@gmail.com.

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