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Flavored Vaping At The Center Of Illinois House Hearing

CHICAGO (CBS) -- A packed committee room in downtown Chicago had state lawmakers listening to vaping supporters and those who say the flavored products get kids hooked on a dangerous practice.

At the hearing called "Addressing the Vaping Crisis," state House representatives listened to more than a dozen people speaking for more than three hours in favor of a proposed ban on flavored vaping products, and those who use and sell them, who argue that flavored vaping has helped keep people off tobacco cigarettes.

Illinois lawmakers are considering banning most flavored vaping products, following recent restrictions that some other states have enacted amid concerns about the safety of vaping and its allure to young people.

"As we allow these products to remain in the market, we know it fosters the opportunity for kids to access them and newly become addicted to nicotine. I have a lot of questions about the flavors in particular," said Michelle Mussman (D-56th), who admitted that a vote on a flavor ban is some time away and said that banning a product might make people buy it illegally.

"We do not want to push people  into a black market to get a product that they believe is beneficial and safer than what they had started with and create a more unsafe situation," Mussman said.

Arsema Araya, a junior at Glenbard North, was one of three students addressing the lawmakers on how e-cigarettes and related products are constantly being marketed to them and their peers. Araya said more peer-to-peer programs can help but ultimately laws to prohibit the sale of flavored products would go a long way.

"We need to use the tactic that were used to (discourage) cigarettes and use those same tactics for e-cigarettes," Araya said. "I want to keep it away from students. So if I can ban it for anyone under the age of 21, that's great."

Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot has already proposed a ban on flavored e-cigarettes. In Illinois, there have been 52 confirmed cases of vaping-related lung disease, with 12 more cases under investigation. One person in Illinois has died of a vaping-related illness.

The median age of vaping-related lung disease in Illinois is 22 years old, with the youngest reported victim 15 years old. Investigators are now looking at more than 450 possible cases of e-cigarette related illness spanning more than 33 states.

Keeping it from kids is the one thing both sides agreed on. Those using and selling vaping insisted that flavored products are in place to help adults to quit smoking.

"There is a problem with youth vaping. Get rid of online vapes. That's how my niece bought hers. She was 14 years old and she did it. We had to have a talk with her about it. Get rid of high milligram nicotine and pod systems like Juul. " said Jaime Havener of LaSalle County Illinois. "But get rid of flavors is not the solution. You're going to have more people getting sick from trying to do it at home."

A Gurnee teen who was recently hospitalized for a vaping related illness is suing a vaping device maker and the gas station that sold it to him. In a complaint filed on Friday in Lake County Circuit Court, the civil suit names Juul Labs Inc., as well MFD Mobile, also known as The Gas Stop in Waukegan, for allegedly illegally selling nicotine-based products to Adam Hergenreder of Gurnee.

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