Starting on Oct. 1, tobacco, electronic cigarettes and vaping products cannot be sold to anyone under 21 in Connecticut. The state also plans to begin taxing e-cigarettes and flavored vaping liquids at the same rate as tobacco -- 50 percent of the retail price.
But many health officials say raising the age may not be enough. Some states, including New York and Michigan, are moving to ban e-cigarettes altogether. The White House also has called for a national ban on flavored e-cigarettes.
According to the American Lung Association, more than 5,000 children start vaping every day. E-cigarettes appeal to teen users and even younger, with 8,000 flavors that include strawberry, cotton candy and gummy bear.
Connecticut’s Department of Public Health is investigating 11 illnesses that may be related to the use of electronic cigarettes.
State Health Commissioner Renée Coleman-Mitchell issued a warning on Sept. 12 encouraging residents to consider not using e-cigarette or vaping products pending the outcome of state and national investigations. The health department said the first case of lung disease in Connecticut possibly tied to vaping was reported on Aug. 14. Seven of the recovering patients are from Fairfield County.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is currently investigating hundreds of cases of lung illness nationwide that have been linked to vaping. In recent months, vaping has been blamed for seven deaths and linked to more than 450 illnesses in 36 states,
Gov. Ned Lamont signed a bill in June raising the legal age to buy cigarettes, cigars, vaping pens and other tobacco paraphernalia from 18 to 21.
One of the most popular brands -- Juul -- said it will stop selling most of its flavored nicotine pods for its e-cigarettes in retail stores. The company said it plans to resume sales to retailers that adopt the company's new age restrictions and verification system.
Retailers call proposed new laws an overreaction and urge users to not confuse e-cigarette cartridges sold through vape shops with illegal THC and untested street cartridges on the black market. The say new restrictions may spark a rise in illegal, sales or unregulated, more dangerous products.
A 22-year-old college student from Fairfield County who had a stroke and suffered brain damage is suing Juul, saying the company knowingly hooked kids like him on a dangerous drug.
Maxwell Berger got hooked on vaping -- inhaling nicotine-laced vapor from an e-cigarette -- when he was 17 because Juul marketed its product to him and other teens, Berger alleges in the lawsuit filed in San Francisco County Superior Court, where Juul is based. Over the next two years, Berger became increasingly addicted to the nicotine, and was eventually vaping every 10 to 20 minutes, using two Juul pods a day, according to the suit. That’s the nicotine equivalent of two packs of cigarettes a day.
Berger continued vaping when he was a student at Syracuse University. The lawsuit alleges that Juul intentionally marketed to Berger and other teens, knowing that the nicotine was dangerous to their growing brains and lungs.
In a response to the lawsuit, a Juul spokesman said the e-cigarettes were intended to be a better alternative to cigarettes, and the company never wanted non-nicotine users to start.
"Our product is intended to be a viable alternative for current adult smokers only. We do not want non-nicotine users, especially youth, to ever try our product,” a Juul spokesman said. “To the extent this case alleges otherwise, it is without merit and we will defend our mission throughout this process.”
Berger vaped consistently for two years, including when he was a student at Syracuse University. When he went home for the summer in 2017, he suffered a massive stroke, according to the lawsuit. Research by the American Stroke Association links vaping to higher risk of stroke and other cardiovascular problems.
Berger, who was 20 at the time of the stroke, required several brain surgeries and had to be hospitalized for 100 days, according to the lawsuit.
People have been smoking for at least 7,000 years, but it wasn't until the 1800s that cigarettes became the smoke of choice, after machines were developed to mass produce them. In 2003, the electronic cigarette was invented in China.