SHELBY TOWNSHIP, Mich. - The FDA warns the number of kids using e-cigarettes or vaping is reaching epidemic levels, with more than 2 million middle and high school students using them last year.
While the Food and Drug Administration says you have to be 18 to use e-cigarettes, the state of Michigan currently has no law dealing with minors and vaping.
Bill Miskokomon, of Shelby Township, is a father who thinks more should be done to protect children from the dangers of vaping.
"I'm not saying to take vaping out of everybody's hands. If you are old enough and you can make a wise decision and are educated enough, go ahead," Miskokomon said. "What I'm trying to do is protect those young kids that don't know better. Why give them a tool to ruin their life?"
Miskokomon visits smoke shops to educate them about e-cigarettes.
He is with the South Eastern Michigan Indians who put together education packets for retailers on vaping and e-cigarettes. He stops at stores all over metro Detroit and encourages them to be proactive about keeping vaping products away from kids.
This is not Miskokomon's first time trying to product children from dangerous products. In 2012, he helped lobby for K2 Spice products to be banned from stores after someone close to his family got hurt using it.
E-cigarettes are electronic devices that heat a liquid, producing an aerosol that's inhaled. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, they can contain harmful substances including nicotine, flavorings that are safe to eat but not inhale because your lungs can't process them and other cancer-causing chemicals.
The FDA said it's concerned about youth using these products because their developing brains are vulnerable to nicotine addiction. That's why the agency is cracking down on the sales of E-cigarettes to minors. During a nationwide undercover operation this summer, the agency sent warning letters to 1,300 retailers who illegally sold e-cigarette products to minors. This includes stores in metro Detroit and Michigan.
To see which stores, click here.
The FDA also issued 12 warning letters to other online retailers that sold products with misleading labels or advertising of e-liquids that look like kid-friendly items like candy or cookies. These are products the FDA said should no longer be sold with these labels based on action the agency took in May.
Miskokomon is motivated to educate everyone about e-cigarettes and minors.
"Well, one, we have to educate the stores and let them know not to target the youth, and then two, I'm going to different communities and letting them know that there are ordinances in other communities that they can go and look at and copy or tailor it to their needs," he said. "I'm hoping while we wait for the state to come up with a bill, that these local municipalities will enact an ordinance."
With no state bill keeping e-cigarettes away from minors, Miskokomon reaches out to cities to encourage them to pass an ordinance preventing teenagers from buying or using e-cigarettes. He says Shelby Township, Mount Clemens, Center Line and Utica have passed such an ordinance. He says he has reached out to Southfield and it is considering doing the same.
Canton Township has also passed an ordinance keeping minors from vaping.
Miskokomon lobbies state lawmakers to make it illegal for anyone under 18 to buy or use electronic cigarettes. While bills have been introduced, some more than a year ago, nothing has passed.
In the meantime, he encourages parents to talk to their children about e-cigarettes.
"I would say talk to your son or daughter, let him know that it's dangerous, that you don't support it, and I would just be vigilant on checking to make sure that they don't have this product on them, and if they do, you need to sit down and talk with them," Miskokomon said.
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