KNOXVILLE — After the FDA declared youth vaping an epidemic, East Tennesseans are speaking their minds about the electronic cigarettes.
"Almost everyone I know has one or wants to get one," said Haley Antwine, a student at The University of Tennessee. Antwine owns a JUUL vape herself, but says she knows the consequences the devices can have on minors.
“It’s supposed to be an alternative to like help smokers stop smoking but it’s actually addicted a lot of teens," she said.
Dimitris Agrafiotis, executive director of the Tennessee Smoke Free Association argues the FDA's targeting of five vaping companies that make up about 97% of the market wrongly ropes in premium vape stores to the problem of minors vaping.
“A lot of the stores that were sighted in the FDA announcement happen to be convenience stores, gas stations or online points of sale that don’t have the same expertise and education to card and of course educate the customers on the use of vapor products," he said.
At The Hookah Hookup in Bearden, assistant manager Adam Bunch says he used to vape, until he found himself dependent on his JUUL and wanting to save money.
“I reached a point where I decided I needed to quit smoking, cause it’s a lot of nicotine in there," he said. “It is a mystery to me how high schoolers are getting it because we do a good job of I.D.'ing every person.”
If the companies listed under the FDA's announcement do not offer a plan to curb youth vaping that meets FDA requirements, the statement says they could be shut down.