As vaping debate ramps up, American Heart Association takes big measures

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Thursday, November 21, 2019
News 12 at 11 o'clock

AIKEN, SC (WRDW/WAGT) -- The American Heart Association is launching three major initiatives to combat vaping, especially among the youth. But a local vape shop owner said they're going after the wrong people.

"We need to differentiate the difference between nicotine vaping and vaping illicit THC cartridges," said John Boynton, owner of Vapor Tek USA in Aiken.

Boynton has owned Vapor Tek since 2012. While he admitted there is a problem with some vapes, he said it's not with shops like his.

"It has nothing to do with nicotine vaping and the products that vape shop owners all across the country sell," he said. "It has everything to do with illicit THC cartridges that drug dealers are selling on the streets."

But doctors and health organizations disagree.

"We're pleased with the progress that the CDC is making," said Kayla Kranenberg, Executive Director of the American Heart Association's CSRA chapter. "But that doesn't suggest that commercially available products are safe in any way."

These products are getting into the hands, and lungs, of children. The CDC said vaping went up nearly 7 percent among high school students since last year. The youngest vaping patient to end up at Doctor's Hospital was just 12.

"I think it's just the ease and access to being able to do it has really increased the numbers," said Kranenberg. "We're at an all-time high of kids doing this."

The AHA is starting three new initiatives to combat that. One is spending $20 million to research vaping among teens. Another is a twitter campaign to get the community involved. The third is pushing for public policy change at all levels.

Boynton said most people who come into his shop are former smokers looking for an alternative to cigarettes.

"This should be a product that's accessible to adults who don't wanna smoke who prefer vaping," he said.

A big talking point is whether these products are FDA regulated. Boynton said all of the products in his store are, and it's the black market THC vapes that are not. The FDA's website said the agency has inspected more than 1,200 shops since 2016, making sure all products meet FDA regulations.

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