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Monday is deadline to submit comments on proposed increase of nicotine in e-cigarettes

Nicotine exposure at a young age "may cause lasting harm to brain development," warns Dr. Tom Frieden, chief of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Nicotine exposure at a young age "may cause lasting harm to brain development," warns Dr. Tom Frieden, chief of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

A proposed settlement between the state of Utah and the Utah Vapor Business Association – the state lobbying association for the vaping industry - would allow the amount of nicotine in e-cigarettes sold in Utah to increase by 2%. Opponents of the settlement say Utahns need to stand up and protect the children.

The proposed settlement between the Utah Department of Health and the Utah Vapor Business Association, which represents vaping manufacturers and wholesalers, would allow Utah retailers to sell vape pens with a higher nicotine concentration than is currently legal.

Current regulations were designed to safeguard the health of Utah's youth and reduce the risk of nicotine addiction.

Two years ago, Utah set a limit of 3% nicotine by weight per container. If the proposed settlement goes through, that could increase to 5% by weight. The Food and Drug Administration limits the amount of nicotine to 5% by weight.

But opponents want to prevent the increase. Gayle Ruzika, who serves as president of the Eagle Forum, a conservative lobbying organization, as well as Drug Safe Utah, says this is a non-partisan issue.

“Right now, in our Utah Senate, we have two doctors that are senators. One is Sen. Jen Plumb, who is a Democrat. And the other one is Sen. Mike Kennedy, who is a Republican. And both of these doctors are opposed to raising this to the 5%. They're working and trying to help keep it at 3%. So, we are hoping that everybody will look at this and just say what we care about is protecting the children.”

According to the Centers for Disease Control, even though it’s illegal for those under the age of 18 to have e-cigarettes, 14% of high school children in the U.S. are vaping.

“When we have an increase like that, to 5%, these children, they don't even comprehend the amount of nicotine that they're inhaling,” she said. “We just don't see a reason for that. Because, you know, the children's developing brain is so important here. And then of course, their developing lungs. We just saw a few years ago when children were dying from vaping or even having to have lung transplants.”

If the state doesn’t settle, Ruzika says the issue would go back to court, which she believes would be worth it.

“We have to do that - we have to stand up for what's right,” she said. “Otherwise, we won't even need elected officials anymore. If we can just rule by lawsuits every time somebody doesn't like something they sue. And it was a hope that we'll just say, oh my gosh, I lost a lawsuit, we don't want another lawsuit. Give them what they want. Well, I'm sorry, the children are worth the bite.”

KPCW reached out to a local vape shop for comment as well as to both the president and registered lobbyist for the Utah Vapor Business Association. Our calls and emails were not returned in time for this report.

The Department of Health and Human Services is accepting public comment on the proposed settlement. The deadline to submit comments is Monday, July 17, the day of the public hearing. Concerned individuals can email the Utah Department of Health and Human Services at comments@utah.gov.

The virtual public hearing agenda has been posted on theUtah Public Notice Website. The hearing starts at 10 a.m. July 17.