Gov. Tony Evers announced goals to pass K-12 school campus bans on vaping, stricter enforcement on the sales of the devices and a campaign to raise awareness about vaping health concerns on Jan. 19 ahead of his State of the State address, according to Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reporting.
From August 2019 through Jan. 16 of this year, Wisconsin has experienced 104 vaping related hospitalizations, according to the Lake Mills Leader.
Vaping related hospitalizations commonly come from EVALI, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s name for the lung disease caused by electronic smoking devices. As of Jan. 14, the CDC reported 2,668 cases that resulted in hospitalization. Of the 2,668 cases, 60 of the affected individuals died.
“Vaping is a serious public health epidemic and it is time to take action,” Evers said in his State of the State address. “State agencies will continue to work closely with local public health officials, law enforcement, and the medical community to implement solutions, but we also need our partners in the legislature to join us in order to really move the needle.”
State Sen. Fred Risser, D-Madison, said he supports educational attempts on the matter, and added that he believes it is good public policy to present information on the harmful effects of vaping.
“There are a series of bills on the subject,” Risser said. “Whether or not they will have any effect, I don’t know. What we can do is let them know what is harmful and try to get them to realize they only have one body and you want to keep it going as long as possible.”
Aside from that, Risser said he will not take any separate actions in District 26, which makes up the larger part of Madison. He did, however, say in the meantime, smaller units like city councils and universities can and should make their own rules on vaping, as the issue is of high importance and larger governing bodies are not able to act timely on everything.
Risser said he does not believe the legislature plans to meet much anymore in regards to the vaping legislation, and it is uncertain whether they will act on these bills.
“I think from a long-range standpoint it ought [to] be statewide, and as a legislator, I’m happy to help work out a statewide policy on this because I consider it a problem,” Risser said. “The subject should be applicable statewide, even nationwide, but since the national government hasn’t taken a strong stand yet, we can take a state stand as much as we want.”
The CDC, however, has been working on reducing vaping related injuries through its investigations with the Food and Drug Administration and its public health warnings. Risser explained a statewide effort at the present might be more applicable and accessible.
Risser said at that point, the passage of the bills will be partly in the hands of the people of Wisconsin and he would not be surprised if more local governments create their own vaping laws.
“It’s the level of society’s interest that determines whether or not something will be acted on,” Risser said. “The funding will be whatever money society wants to put into it.”
In the University of Wisconsin community, sophomore Katelyn Miller said vaping is a huge issue, and one that will continue.
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“I see it all around me, and I think part of the problem is so many kids my age got hooked on vaping before they really knew quite how dangerous it was,” Miller said. “It is obviously very addictive, so even though they know it’s bad for them, they can’t stop.”
While Miller believes vaping is an issue on campus, Risser thinks the university is no different than anywhere else and should not be treated differently.
Risser said he believes the issue spans society.
“Whether it’s the university property or other private property or a public building, I think it is a societal problem that we should restrict because it affects other people,” Risser said.