Gov. Walz Says Vaping Has Become A Public Health Crisis For YouthBy Esme Murphy

ST. PAUL, Minn. (WCCO) — Gov. Tim Walz wants to ban all flavored e-cigarettes in Minnesota, but in order to make it happen, he needs the legislature to act.

According to the Minnesota Department of Health, one in four middle and high school students have tried vaping.

As Esme Murphy reports, that number is expected to keep rising.

The governor’s call to action is based on the Minnesota student survey, which shows a big jump not only in high school students vaping, but vaping amongst middle schoolers.

The survey, which is conducted every three years among Minnesota public school students, found that 25% of 11th graders are vaping regularly — an increase from 17% in 2016. Among eighth graders, 11% are regular vapers — up from 5.7% three years ago.

“We can’t play both sides on this and think things through. Sour Patch Kids flavor is aimed at children, so quit pretending there is a free enterprise component of this,” Walz said.

Walz blasted big tobacco companies for marketing e-cigs directly to kids.

“If I have a message: Shame on them. This is clearly meant to addict our children,” Walz said.

School nurse Sue Nokleby from School District 287 in Plymouth brought with her confiscated vaping products, saying parents often don’t recognize them.

“This one looks like a mini cellphone, or if you remember MP3 players,” Nokleby said.

Walz says he wants the legislature to pass a ban on flavored e-cigarette products, as well as a ban on sales of all tobacco products to anyone under 21. WCCO reached out to Republicans, and a spokesperson for Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka says they have no set position on the governor’s proposals.

The legislature is back in session on Feb. 11.

In support of this effort, Commissioner of Education Mary Cathryn Ricker will hold a statewide conference call with with school district leaders and school nurses on Friday morning.

Esme Murphy