PHOENIX — Taking a puff off an electronic cigarette won't be a popular activity among Arizona's youth if state health officials have anything to say about it.
The Arizona Department of Health Services is planning to mount an aggressive anti-vape campaign in December as well as pursue any e-cigarette businesses aiming at minors, the Arizona Republic reports.
"We're assuming the worst. While cigarette use is going down, we're assuming e-cigarette use here is going up, just as it is nationally," said Wayne Tormala, chief of the Bureau of Tobacco and Chronic Disease at the Arizona Department of Health Services. "We're concerned that it will become of epidemic proportions in Arizona."
The Food and Drug Administration declared in September that it would target regulations for manufacturers and retailers of e-cigarette products that market toward children and teens. FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb said in a statement that e-cigarettes have become an almost "ubiquitous" trend.
"The FDA won't tolerate a whole generation of young people becoming addicted to nicotine as a tradeoff for enabling adults to have unfettered access to these same products," Gottlieb said.
Some Arizona schools are also taking an active approach with their own initiatives. For the past several months, Tempe Union High School District has students spearheading its "Vanish the Vape" campaign. Kids caught vaping could receive a suspension. But for some, that isn't a deterrent.
"Today when I went into the bathroom I saw what I can only describe as a giant ball of vape," said Bach Drew, a 16-year-old junior at Marcos de Niza High School who is on the school's anti-vape committee. "Everyone is doing it."
In 2013, Arizona became one of the first states to outlaw selling e-cigarettes to minors. Clerks can be fined up to $300 and businesses up to $1,000 for breaking the law.
The Arizona attorney general's office and health officials have also conducted sting operations using youths. When the law first passed, about 85 percent of young people in these stings could get away with buying them, said Erika Mansur, an attorney with the AG's Tobacco Enforcement Unit. She believes the rate has declined to 38 percent.