Politics & Government

Lawmaker calls on SC governor to ban vape, e-cigarette products as 12 die

A South Carolina politician is calling for a temporary ban on e-cigarette — or “vape” — products after an outbreak of hundreds of cases of lung injuries associated with their use popped up across the U.S.

State Sen. Darrell Jackson, D-Richland, sent a letter to S.C. Gov. Henry McMaster Friday asking the governor to declare a public health state of emergency.

“We have to get a grasp on what exactly it is about these chemicals that is making people so sick,” Jackson said in a statement. “A four-month ban will buy us time to study if these products are hurting South Carolinians. I hope Governor McMaster will join me in recognizing just how serious this crisis is, and take critical action.”

As of Thursday, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention counted 805 cases of lung injuries linked to vaping. Twelve people have died as a result of the injuries, according to the CDC.

Twelve cases were confirmed in South Carolina, including one in the Midlands, according to a report from the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control. No one has died of their injuries in the state yet, according to the CDC.

Though CDC officials have not identified the specific cause of the lung injuries, all patients experiencing them have a history of e-cigarette or vape use, according to the CDC.

Jackson called the wide-spread injuries an “epidemic.”

“South Carolina has an opportunity to save lives by taking these products off the shelves while health officials and medical experts research what is causing so many life-threatening vaping-related illnesses and deaths,” Jackson wrote in his letter. “I sincerely hope that you will take the critical action needed to protect the people of South Carolina at this time.”

A push to ban the sale of vaping products, even temporarily, could be difficult in South Carolina if companies that make those products push back.

E-cigarette giant Juul plans to invest $125 million in a plant in Lexington, creating 500 jobs.

The State was unable to reach McMaster’s office and the e-cigarette company for comment Friday.

Earlier this month, President Donald Trump announced that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration would be making moves to ban flavored e-cigarette products. The ban would remove all flavors of e-cigarette — excluding tobacco flavored — from shelves across the country.

The CDC has recommended that vape or e-cigarette users not use the products. Users who are seeing symptoms should contact their doctor, the CDC recommended.

Emily Bohatch helps cover South Carolina’s government for The State. She also updates The State’s databases. Her accomplishments include winning a Green Eyeshade award in Disaster Reporting in 2018 for her teamwork reporting on Hurricane Irma. She has a degree in Journalism with a minor in Spanish from Ohio University’s E. W. Scripps School of Journalism.