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Doctors hope flavor ban will curb e-cigarette popularity among youth

The U.S. House of Representatives passed a bill adding vaping regulations, limiting youth marketing and prohibiting the use of flavoring in most e-cig products.

NORFOLK, Va. — When it comes to youth vaping, Dr. Natasha Sriraman says the threat is clear.

"We're seeing adult diseases in teenagers and young adults - so it is a chronic health condition, it is a public health crisis," said Dr. Sriraman, a pediatrician with General Academic Pediatrics at CHKD. 

Sriraman and other doctors said they hope a ban on flavoring in e-cigarette products will suppress the appeal of vaping among teenagers. She said she knows patients who are having trouble taking their SATs. They feel they need to vape in the middle of the standardized test.

"A lot of kids are already addicted. They're presenting symptoms of withdrawal," Sriraman said.

Our 13News Now Investigation showed that vaping infractions are rising across Hampton Roads school divisions each year.

Sriraman says teenagers who vape are more likely to start smoking cigarettes too.

"It's affecting brain development, definitely affecting the lungs, we're seeing diseases in children that adult pulmonologists are seeing," she said/

RELATED: New drug use survey shows more teens are vaping marijuana

RELATED: IN SESSION: Once-addicted teen shares vaping story in Dare County

House Bill 2339 passed by a vote of 213 to 195 on Friday. It adds vaping regulations to curb youth marketing and prohibit the use of flavoring in most e-cigarette products.

E-cigarette company Juul is currently under investigation for its marketing and sales practices, including the targeting of youth at schools across the country. Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring has joined attorneys general from 38 other states in an investigation of Juul. 

RELATED: 39 states investigating Juul's marketing of vaping products

"They had access to public school programs like afterschool programs for troubled youth and they paid the school programs under the pretense of youth education and health education and, for me, that's mortifying," Sriraman said. 

Sriraman said parents need to talk to their children about vaping now, and she hopes the growing popularity subsides.

"I hope banning the flavoring and the marketing is going to make it less interesting, less fun, less accessible."

HB 2339 would still need to pass the Senate before President Trump could sign it into law. 

Representative Elaine Luria split with her party to vote against the bill. She explained her vote in a statement to 13News Now: 

"The Youth Tobacco Epidemic Act approaches the youth nicotine problem in the wrong way. As one of the 16 Democrats opposing this bill, I believe it is government overreach to ban the sale of popular tobacco products. I would prefer to see an approach that limits youth access to tobacco and nicotine-delivery products through stricter regulations on sales to minors, campaigns to deglamorize tobacco to youth and clear health warnings."

RELATED: FDA raises minimum age to purchase tobacco from 18 to 21

RELATED: 'Vast majority' of vaping illnesses blamed on vitamin E

The Campaign For Tobacco-Free Kids also released a statement regarding the House vote and pending legislation.

“The U.S. House of Representatives delivered a historic victory for kids over the tobacco industry by voting to prohibit all flavored tobacco products, including flavored e-cigarettes, menthol cigarettes and flavored cigars. We commend all those in Congress who voted 'yes' to protect kids. This legislation is exactly what’s needed to reverse the youth e-cigarette epidemic and end the tobacco industry’s long and lethal history of targeting kids and other vulnerable groups with flavored products.

The latest data shows that more than 5.3 million kids now use e-cigarettes, including more than 1 in 4 high school students. Flavored e-cigarettes have fueled this crisis as nearly all youth e-cigarette users use flavored products and most cite flavors as a key reason for their use. The U.S. Senate should quickly take up and approve this legislation." - Matthew L. Myers, Campaign for Tobacco Free-Kids President

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