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Reynolds Will Not Order Vaping Ban To Address Illnesses

John Pemble
IPR file
Gov. Reynolds points out that courts have struck down executive orders to restrict vaping in two other states.

Gov. Kim Reynolds will not pursue an executive order to ban vaping in Iowa. Instead, state health and education officials will focus on educational programs and a social media campaign warning minors of the health risks associated with e-cigarettes.

Forty-three severe lung illnesses linked to vaping have been reported in Iowa, including 20 in the last month, according the most recent reportfrom the state Department of Public Health. No deaths have been reported in Iowa.

Caitlin Pedati, the department's medical director, said the exact cause is still unknown.

"Probably what we're detecting is probably a range of illnesses that are related to what can happen when people inhale or use a variety of products," Pedati said.

The majority of cases in Iowa have been linked to vaping products containing THC, the main psychoactive component in marijuana.

Reynolds said she is reluctant to act on her own to ban vaping because in states such as Michigan and New York vaping restrictions issued by executive order were later overturned in court.

“That’s not necessarily off the table but right now we’re going to take a look at building out what we’re already working on,” Reynolds said, adding that the Department of Education, Department of Human Services and Department of Public Health will work more closely to get the message out to high school and college students that vaping can be harmful.

“We’ve seen it stabilize just a little but we know like anything else it could escalate tomorrow so I’m not saying it’s even close to being addressed,” Reynolds said.

Reynolds said she will be open to suggestions from lawmakers. In this year’s legislative session, Senate President Charles Schneider, R-West Des Moines, proposed raising the legal age for buying tobacco products from 18 to 21. The governor said if that proposal comes up again she would be willing to discuss it along with other ideas for reducing vaping-related illnesses.

Grant Gerlock is a reporter covering Des Moines and central Iowa
Natalie Krebs is IPR's Health Reporter