Kim Gillan

Our Montana communities are facing a serious public health risk—threatening the health and well-being of thousands of Montana teens and young adults. The rampant rise of vaping among teens needs our attention. Unlike cigarettes, now fading from favor, vaping is seen as cool and hip. Unfortunately, vaping is misunderstood as harmless.

Youth vaping is not a harmless trend among teenagers or a phase that kids will eventually grow out of. It is silently wreaking havoc on the lives of millions of young people and jeopardizing their future.

Every puff of an e-cigarette delivers a potent cocktail of nicotine, formaldehyde, heavy metals, and other toxic chemicals. These insidious toxins don't just linger in the air; they invade young bodies, impacting developing brains, hearts, and lungs in profound ways. With vaping, our children are inhaling dangerous chemicals and setting them on a path to addiction, not just to nicotine but potentially other substances.

Fueling this fire are disposable, candy-flavored e-cigarettes, largely made in China. While the FDA banned pod-based vapes in 2020, a huge loophole remains: disposable vapes. Their numbers have skyrocketed by a staggering 1,500% since 2020, flooding the market with over 5,800 alluring options directly targeting youth.

These sweet-infused, flashy devices, heavily marketed on TikTok by influencers and celebrities, have hooked 85% of young vapers with their fruity, dessert-themed flavors.

The shocking truth? Most of these products are sold illegally, flouting FDA regulations. Every e-cigarette needs agency approval before reaching shelves, yet only 23 tobacco-flavored products for adults have been authorized. These flavored culprits, fueling the youth vaping epidemic, have no place in legal circulation.

In 2022, over 2.5 million US children vaped, a statistic screaming for immediate action. Over 2.5 million US children, roughly 14% of high schoolers and 3% of middle schoolers, are vaping. This isn't a fad, it's a public health crisis fueled by illegal disposable, candy-flavored e-cigarettes. Flavors like "Cotton Candy Crush" and "Unicorn Tears" are targeting our Montana youth and their lungs.

The FDA must step up, enforce existing laws, and stop the illegal flavored vapes that endanger our children. It's time for the federal government to ban the sale of flavored disposable vapes. We cannot stand idly by while the health and well-being of our future generation of Montanans hangs in the balance. Let's shield our children from the toxic cloud of addiction and pave the way for a healthier, brighter future for them and for all of us.

Kim Gillan is a former Montana State Senator and former Regional Director for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services