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N.J.'s Largest Health Network Contributes $1 Million To Fund 'Take Vape Away' Initiative

NEPTUNE, N.J. (CBSNewYork) -- Following government efforts to slow down teen use of e-cigarettes, New Jersey's largest health network has launched a new anti-vaping campaign.


Hackensack Meridian Health just committed $1 million to encourage youth to stop vaping. The initiative is called "Take Vape Away," CBS2's Kiran Dhillon reported Thursday.

"As a father and health care executive for 35 years, I am alarmed at the vaping epidemic, especially among our children and believe we must take an aggressive, multi-targeted approach," said Robert C. Garrett, CEO of Hackensack Meridian Health. "We are calling on all health networks and youth community groups to join in our effort because the scope and scale of this problem will require all of us to engage."

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One leg of the strategy is providing grants to school districts and community groups to allow kids to bring in their cartridges or devices for some type of buy back. The money will also go towards educational and awareness programs to encourage high school and middle school students to stop vaping.

FILE - E-cigarettes (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

The announcement comes on the heels of 26 vaping-related deaths being reported in 21 states, including New Jersey, New York and Connecticut.

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According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, nearly 1,300 people have also suffered from vaping-related illnesses and 1 in 4 adolescents have reported using e-cigarettes. Hackensack doctors told Dhillon vaping is toxic.

"There's an inhalation of a toxin and that toxin causes acute inflammatory changes in the lungs," pulmonologist Dr. Eric Costanzo said. "That acute inflammation causes a blockage of the way we pick up oxygen. The body is stopped from picking up oxygen and sharing it with the lungs and can't distribute it to the rest of the body."

Hackensack Meridian Health said it will also train 50 nurses to go to schools around New Jersey to alert students about the potential dangers of vaping, and it will launch a study to identify the the health impact of using e-cigarettes.

"Hackensack Meridian Health's efforts will help prevent youth from starting to vape and assist those already using e-cigarettes to overcome their nicotine addiction," said New Jersey Acting Health Commissioner Judith Persichilli. "These initiatives will build upon the state's efforts to combat vaping and address the health effects that come along with e-cigarette use."

The state Department of Health has reported 32 cases of vaping-related lung illnesses. Of those, 14 have been confirmed, including the death of a woman.

"While regulators and lawmakers learn more about the scope of this problem, it's imperative that we take action now to protect our youth," Garrett said. "I believe we all have a role to play and in taking strong action, we can change the narrative of this disturbing health crisis."

For more information on the Take Vape Away campaign, please click here.


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