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Bloomington Doctor Advocates Age Limit To Buy E-Cigarettes

Dr. John Burr showing phone image
Eric Stock
Dr. John Burr displays an enlarged image of a cell damaged by vaping.

A Bloomington lung doctor said he would like the state to set minimum ages to buy e-cigarettes, as vaping is tied to more than 800 illnesses nationwide and 12 deaths.

Pulmonologist John Burr of Advocate BroMenn Medical Center in Normal didn’t specify a minimum age he would like to see but said he doesn't believe retailers should be selling such potentially harmful products to seventh and eighth graders.

John Burr
Credit Advocate Healthcare
Pulmonologist John Burr of Advocate BroMenn Medical Center said he's telling patients not to use e-cigarettes because of emerging health risks tied to vaping.

“Most people wouldn’t, but that’s an age where a lot of people get hooked on vaping,” Burr said. “It’s concerning the trend that it’s younger and younger and you don’t think your middle schooler is going to school and vaping with his friends, but that’s happening more and more.”

Illinois lawmakers are considering banning most flavored vaping products that are popular among young people.

The Trump administration has also proposed banning some flavored e-cigarettes but is still finalizing its policy.

Burr said he has treated two patients who suffered lung injuries because of vaping. Both patients needed to be placed on oxygen for several days.

The Centers for Disease Control reported 40% of the lung illnesses tied to vaping in the United States involve smokers under 21.

Burr said many young people likely don't understand the health risks.

“Without getting the news out there and without having some regulation, I don’t think the illness will be checked in the way it should be,” he said. “I wouldn’t want my kid to come from college and say ‘I’ve been in the hospital for six days because I just ended up vaping.’”

Burr doesn’t support claims that removing certain e-cigarettes from the market would increase health risks by pushing those products onto the black market.

“It’s sort of like if you smoke a joint you could end up using LSD someday, like restricting it is a gateway to more dangerous drugs,” Burr said. “As a society, I think we’ve done pretty well at eliminating tobacco use in some of the younger population, which if you go to Europe you do not see that.”

The CDC also reported of the more than 800 illnesses reported from vaping in the U.S., 70 percent of them are men.  

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Eric Stock is the News Director at WGLT. You can contact Eric at ejstoc1@ilstu.edu.