WASHINGTON (NEXSTAR) — Congress held its first hearing on vaping Tuesday as federal health officials continue to investigate lung illnesses popping up across the country.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s last count showed more than 500 cases of acute lung injuries linked to vaping and nine people dead. The CDC says the issues highlight what it has been saying for years: flavored vaping products have to go.
Ruby Johnson’s teen daughter was among those hospitalized with lung problems linked to vaping.
“She couldn’t breathe without excruciating pain,” Johnson told lawmakers at the hearing, describing the symptoms that put her daughter in intensive care. “She was nauseous, tachycardic, coughing.”
“I’m here today to share our story so no other family will have to live this same nightmare,” she continued.
Illinois Department of Public Health Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike joined Johnson in calling for an immediate federal ban of flavored vaping products.
“Action is required now to protect our youth,” Ezike said. “The current investigation has highlighted the next generation of nicotine-addicted Americans.”
Experts say a ban is key to reverse the teen vaping epidemic. The CDC says 16% of the reported vaping lung injuries are in people under the age of 18.
But adults who vape, many of whom say it helped them quit smoking, are urging lawmakers not to overreact.
“Flavors matter to me, an adult ex-smoker,” Vicky Porter testified at the hearing. “It’s manifestly dishonest to blame e-cigarettes and nicotine liquids for these illnesses.”
The CDC is continuing to run tests but has yet to pin down the specific ingredient causing the problems.
Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, agreed lawmakers need accurate information to make the right decisions.
“Seems to me we’ve got an epidemic with marijuana use, with vaping, with all kinds of things,” he said.
The Trump administration is working to finalize a ban on flavored vaping products in the coming weeks.