Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody Wednesday targeted more than 20 e-cigarette makers as she announced an investigation into how they are contributing to the teen vaping crisis.
“We are acting now,” she said at Tampa’s H.B. Plant High School, one of two stops in the state where she unveiled the investigation. “And we are not waiting for the federal government to get its act together and regulating these products any longer. I will not let companies play fast and loose with the precious lives of Florida youth.”
Moody cited a state Department of Health survey earlier this year that found teen vaping has increased 58 percent among Florida high school students. The report in April found nearly one in four high school students admits to vaping. Two-thirds of students also did not realize that e-cigarettes contain nicotine, Moody’s office said.
Flanked by Pasco Sheriff Chris Nocco and Hillsborough Sheriff Chad Chronister, Moody vowed not to allow a repeat of the opioid crisis.
“So while this investigation will take time, because we will be thorough and it involves over 20 vaping companies, in the meantime, understand that these products are not harmless,” Moody said.
Florida has seen 68 people with lung injuries from vaping. And last month, the first vaping-related death was reported in the state. The sheriffs at the news conference echoed Moody’s concern and applauded the investigation.
“And if you don't believe there is an epidemic of vaping, ask any principal, ask any teacher, ask any school resource officer what the No. 1 issue they're seeing in the schools. It's vaping,” Nocco said. “We are creating a generation of addicts.”
Nocco warned parents especially to take vaping seriously.
“A lot of people will say, well, you know, vape, you can't compare it to prescription pills,” Nocco said. “But I'm telling you right now, it is an epidemic. It is nowhere where we are with prescription pills, but it's coming.”
He urged parents to check their students’ belongings for vaping products and to even smell their clothes for a sweet, cotton candy smell as evidence of e-cigarette consumption.
High school students at the event also spoke out against vaping.
“Vaping is an epidemic, with a quarter of my fellow classmates regularly using e-cigarettes, lured in by a variety of flavors,” said Riley Schofner, a senior at Plant High. “Nicotine has created a culture of addicted teens.”
Schofner said he and others at the high school have started an effort to reverse peer pressure about the product, including a student campaign against vaping and hosting events to encourage healthy alternatives.
Moody said her office has already requested information from the targeted companies and could pursue civil sanctions or court orders. She did not, however, rule out that the probe could find criminal activity.
The companies being investigated are:
Lizard Juice, LLC
Ejuice Connect.com LLC
Vapor Unlimited, LLC d/b/a Fogworks
Creative Vape Labs, Inc d/b/a Monster Vape Labs
All Access Vapor
The Vaporatory, LLC
FTW VAPOR DISTRIBUTION, INC dba Esnaxx
Drip More LLC
ECIG DISTRIBUTORS, INC.
The Vape Factor, LLC
Florida Vapor Supply