Mayor Lori Lightfoot proposes citywide ban on e-cigarette flavors after vaping illnesses, deaths

CHICAGO (WLS) -- Mayor Lori Lightfoot joined other public leaders, including Senator Dick Durbin, to call attention to the growing vaping crisis and propose a citywide ban on e-cigarette flavors.

Senator Durbin along with Mayor Lightfoot and Chicago Public Schools CEO Janice Jackson, addressed the recent report that Illinois has 52 confirmed cases of vaping related lung disease, with 12 more cases under investigation and one reported death.

Senator Durbin said he's been writing letters to the surgeon general for years asking for help with the youth vaping epidemic and Monday, Mayor Lightfoot stood beside him to propose a citywide ban on the e-cigarette flavors, because they say that the flavors mislead and target youths.

"We're going to start with flavored tobacco in particular because we know this is the gateway in which children become addicted," Lightfoot said. "The companies are targeting them and we want to eliminate that possibility."

"More than one out of four high school students across America are vaping and using e-cigarettes, and there's another grim statistic: 10 percent of middle school students are vaping and I'm afraid it even reaches to lower ages," Durbin said.

The youngest reported victim is 15 years old. An 18-year-old in Illinois filed a lawsuit against Juul last week for his severe lung damage and Senator Durbin said the number is increasing,

"Two years ago, 11 percent of high school students in America were vaping," Durbin said. "A year ago, that number was up to 20 percent from 11 percent and this year it is up to 27 percent."

Senator Durbin added that he met with a doctor Monday morning who told him that while making rounds at a major hospital in Chicago, he came across three teens that were in for vaping and their lives are in the balance.

Chicago Public Schools principals are also taking their own measures to eliminate vaping from school grounds and educate their students on the harm they cause.

"Kids are bringing vapes in to school because they are virtually invisible in metal detectors and x-ray scanners," said Anna Pavichevich, principal of Amundsen High School. "I know this because I personally held 12 different versions of vapes in my hand and walked through our metal detectors. The detectors didn't ring, they didn't light up, they didn't react at all."

Mayor Lightfoot added that she along with Senator Durbin proposed a city wide ban on e cigarette flavors in response to the youth vaping epidemic.

In response to the press conference by Lightfoot and Durbin, Juul Labs released a statement saying:

"We strongly agree with the need for aggressive category-wide action on flavored products. That is why we already stopped selling our non-tobacco/non-menthol based JUULpods to traditional retail stores, are fighting against counterfeit and compatible products made with unknown ingredients under unknown manufacturing standards, and will fully comply with local laws and the final FDA policy when effective. We will continue to combat youth usage, while supporting reasonable access to vapor products for adults looking to switch from combustible cigarettes."

In response to calls for a full ban on e-cigarettes, Juul released a statement saying, "Full prohibition will drive former adult smokers who successfully switched to vapor products back to deadly cigarettes, deny the opportunity to switch for current adult smokers, and create a thriving black market instead of addressing the actual causes of underage access and use. We have already taken the most aggressive actions in the industry to keep our products out of the hands of those underage and are taking steps to do more."
Copyright © 2019 WLS-TV. All Rights Reserved.