DES MOINES — Gov. Kim Reynolds said Friday she has ruled out using an executive order to ban vaping products because educational efforts about the potential health risks of electronic cigarettes and vaping products appear to be working.
Public health officials in Iowa “are starting to see it stabilize just a little bit, but that doesn’t mean it won’t tick up again,” the governor said.
Reynolds pointed to a weekly state report indicating 43 cases have been reported in Iowa of severe respiratory illness among teenagers and young adults with a history of vaping. Of those, 34 were associated with THC, the psychoactive compound in marijuana.
Those numbers were unchanged Friday.
“I think some of the education maybe is starting to work,” Reynolds said in an interview.
The governor held a high-level meeting this week to assess health problems associated with vaping and expects health and education officials to roll out a final package of recommendations next week.
Other states have taken action — including executive orders by governors — to ban the sale of flavored vaping products, e-cigarettes and vaping cartridges, or they have approved some form of an electronic cigarette ban.
Earlier this week Reynolds told reporters she wasn’t afraid to use her executive authority to establish a ban in Iowa, but after this week’s closed-door discussion she said she has ruled out that option.
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“Right now, I’m not going to do an executive order,” she said. “They’re being overturned, and so we’re going to see what we can do through a couple of other channels.”
Included in those alternatives are targeting Iowa college and university students with information about the risks of vaping, Reynolds said, noting “that’s where when we look at the map we’ve seen some heavier usage.”
Also, she said, officials in the state Department of Education plan to work with K-12 schools “to get in front of it,” with increased outreach to younger students.
According to the state Department of Public Health, youths should be discouraged from using vaping and e-cigarette products of any kind as the long-term health effects for youths using these products are unknown.
Symptoms related to vaping illnesses include cough, fatigue, dizziness, headache, vomiting and diarrhea, chest pain, and worsening difficulty breathing, sometimes requiring intensive care. Nationally, 34 people have died; no deaths have been reported in Iowa.
A variety of vaping products associated with the illnesses have been reported, but THC has been commonly associated with these illnesses.
Patients with a history of vaping who are experiencing breathing problems should seek medical care. And health care providers are encouraged to ask patients with respiratory illness about the use of vaping and e-cigarette products.
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