People hold signs that read "I Vape, I Vote" outside the Ohio Statehouse
Protesters outside the Ohio Statehouse. [Jo Ingles | Statehouse News Bureau]

Some Ohioans Are Fuming Over Flavored Vaping Products

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On the very day a new excise tax on vapor products went into effect, hundreds gathered for a rally at the Ohio Statehouse. Meanwhile, Gov. Mike DeWine called for new changes.

People who use or sell flavored vaping products gathered on the steps of the Ohio Statehouse Tuesday. They chanted and held signs, urging Ohio lawmakers to reject legislation to ban flavored vaping products.

Some state leaders have proposed banning flavored vaping products or e-cigarettes in light of recent illnesses. The Ohio Department of Health reports at least 20 confirmed cases of severe respiratory ailments due to vaping. Most of those patients treated in hospitals are young adults or children. There have been hundreds of similar cases throughout the nation and even some deaths.

Vaping products come in a variety of flavors including chocolate, cherry and berry. Proponents of legislation to ban flavored vaping products contend they are attractive to children.

Ohio Vapor Trade Association President James Jarvis said “flavor bans are a misguided attempt to address what is currently happening across the country with illnesses and, unfortunately, deaths.” He said many of the problems are coming from black market THC cartridges that can be used in vaping devices. He said banning flavors would shut down 650 stores in Ohio since 85 percent of adults purchase flavored e-cigarettes.

Adults who took part in the Statehouse rally said children who want flavored vapor products can easily get them on the black market. Wearing a U.S. Veteran hat and pushing a walker, William Bumgardner of Batavia said he smoked cigarettes for 45 years. He credited a flavored vaping product that tastes like Werther’s candy for helping him to quit the habit.

Amber Storer, also from Batavia, said she also had success kicking the smoking habit by using flavored vaping products.

“I smoked for 23 years. I started at 13 and I quit in 2016 using blueberry,” Storer said.

Ohio Governor Mike DeWine said he thinks the flavored vaping products are attractive to kids. DeWine said the state will spent $3.3 million on a prevention campaign aimed at young people. DeWine could have issued an executive order that would ban flavored vaping products as governors in some other states have done. Instead, he called on Ohio lawmakers to ban flavored vaping products that appeal to kids.

“Our focus will remain on young people. That’s where I think we have a moral obligation. It’s the responsible thing for us to do,” DeWine said.

DeWine also called on Ohio’s public universities to ban smoking and vaping products on campus. Ohio Chancellor of Higher Education, Randy Gardner, says most have already done that.

There are two bills in the Ohio Legislature that would ban the sale of flavored vapor products. Neither have been brought up for committee hearings yet. A ban on flavored vaping products is also being considered at the federal level.