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Sen. Romney, Utah Health Officials Discuss Vaping Crisis

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah — Sen. Mitt Romney talked about his fight against the vaping industry during a roundtable discussion with a group of vaping experts in Utah.

“We have a health crisis,” Romney said to the group of 10 people on Thursday. “We have an explosion of vaping being done by kids in middle school and in high school.”

Officials with the Center for Disease Control said there are cases now in every state except Alaska. The high number of cases has grabbed the attention of Romney, who has proposed a bill that would put an end to flavored juices.

During the discussion, officials said there has been a 135% increase in vaping among kids over the last two years. More than 25% of high school students reported vaping and more than 80% of students cited flavors as the number one reason they vape.

One doctor from Primary Children’s Hospital said about two-thirds of young kids think JUUL pods do not have nicotine.

“They will see smoking as really something terrible and vaping as something that’s safe and fun,” Dr. Joni Hemond said.

Hemond said one of her patients with vaping illness was as young as 12 years old.

“This is even getting younger and younger which is really concerning,” she said.

Dr. Dixie Harris with Intermountain Medical Center has treated or helped diagnose more than 50 of the 76 patients in Utah who have the vaping illness.

She told Romney that most of the cases are very severe. “They will tell me ‘I felt like I was going to die,’” she said. “The lungs are very inflamed and a lot of scar tissue.”

Harris said the key is to get people treated as early as possible. “We are telling people if you think you have the flu and you’ve been vaping please get in and get evaluated,” she said.

But Romney said the battle to change vaping laws is not going to be easy.

“The forces that push against any change are enormous. The tobacco industry is huge, has a lot of money and will spend unlimited amounts,” he said.