On Thursday, the Center for Disease Control (CDC) announced that Pennsylvania was now one of 21 states with a reported death linked to vaping. This outbreak of lung-illnesses due to vaping is now up to 1,299 reported cases, including 26 deaths, with 219 reported in the last week.
On the same day of this most recent announcement by the CDC, Lt. Governor John Fetterman took to Twitter not to draw attention to the crisis, but to post cartoons mocking those calling for caution. Fetterman’s mocking tweets were directed at the group Smart Approaches to Marijuana after they appeared on national news to talk about the marijuana industry’s involvement in the current crisis.
Respectfully, Lt. Governor Fetterman, the vaping crisis is no laughing matter. Vaping is one of the fastest growing segments of the marijuana and nicotine industry. School districts and parents are struggling to control it. Teens are vaping more than smoking cigarettes with a dramatic increase among high school students in 2018 alone, with nearly two in five high school seniors reporting they vaped in the last year. Just look at this recent local news headline – “Vaping lures alarming number of Lehigh Valley middle-schoolers, reversing decades long anti-smoking trend.”
Some states’ high officials are trying to do something about the vaping crisis. Six governors from across the country have enacted various bans on vaping products. “My first priority is to safeguard the health of all Oregonians,” stated Oregon Governor Kate Brown, who signed an executive order enacting a six-month ban on all flavored vaping products.
Meanwhile, here in Pennsylvania, Governor Tom Wolf has not shared anything about the vaping crisis on his social media platforms and is instead busy pushing the commercialization of recreational marijuana.
Governor Wolf, with Lt. Governor Fetterman standing right beside him, wants to make the same products involved in the national vaping crisis legal for recreational sale and distribution. Instead of ‘stop vaping’ or even ‘use with caution’ it’s been only “get a marijuana bill to my desk” from Pennsylvania’s governor.
According to the CDC, the latest findings suggest products containing THC, the chemical responsible for most of marijuana’s psychological effects, play a role in the outbreak. But despite 100 doctors working directly on the crisis and the CDC activating emergency operations, we still do not know what is the exact cause or causes of this vaping crisis.
There is evidence to show that the products used by those in the reported cases of this health crisis were bought from both “legal” distributors and the illegal black market. That’s one reason why Pennsylvania’s Secretary of Health Dr. Rachel Levine recently warned against both illegally bought THC vaping products and the possible risks with legally purchased products as well. “Use extreme caution before using any vaping product at this time.”
Is there any reason why Governor Wolf has not yet used his platform to at the very least share Dr. Levine’s warnings?
It must be pointed out that Governor Tom Wolf, in the 2016 budget negotiations, agreed to a 40% tax increase on vaping products in order to create a “long-term, sustainable revenue.” In 2017, this tax brought in a reported $13.7 million in revenue.
I would certainly believe that Governor Wolf and Lt. Governor Fetterman want to put people before profits. If they do, then they should be pushing pause on their push for recreational marijuana and start helping people find out answers to this vaping crisis.