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Vape shop owner reacts to Gov. Evers’ proposed youth vaping crackdown

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SUN PRAIRIE (WKOW) -- A Sun Prairie smoke shop owner said she believes hearsay and misinformation about vape and e-cigarette products have impacted her business.

Margie Blumenthal told 27 News that in the wake of news about vaping-related deaths and other dangers, her business, Public Enemy Poke and Smoke, had to deal with an increase in questions and concerns from the public about their products.

"I just think that there wasn't the knowledge that was needed," she said. "These devices came out and then the problem with the vape deaths that were tied into black market cartridges has completely confused everything."

She said the devices she sells were intended for people who smoked to use as a way to wean themselves off heavy cigarette use. But now teens and children have picked up the habit because they don't understand that vape devices like Juuls are just as harmful and dangerous as a cigarette.

"It became something to use all day long," said Blumenthal. "It was misused and that's where the addiction came."

Governor Tony Evers proposed a plan Sunday to tackle youth vaping in Wisconsin. He said he wants state lawmakers to pass bills to stop youth vaping, including banning those products at schools.

One of those bills would fund a public health campaign to educate parents and medical professionals about the risks these devices pose, and how to address it with children.

According to a press release, he wants the state to develop a strategy to work with health care providers about how to identify and warn youth about the risks of using these devices during standard patient visits.

Blumenthal said better education on vaping and e-cigarettes is a major piece of this issue.

"Without education, everybody's just kind of figuring it out themselves," she said. "We all need to get together and make a firm program as to how to address vape because I think it's a product that's here, and it's here to stay."

She said she also believes the unregulated sale of these devices on the internet contributed to the increased use by teens.

"Unfortunately us mom and pop shops who are brick and mortar and were here watching everyone who came in, unfortunately we're paying the price because so many online businesses just sold to whoever just to make a profit," she said.

According to the Wisconsin Department of Health Services, e-cigarette use by Wisconsin high school students jumped 154 percent between 2014 and 2018. Use by middle school students in that same time frame jumped 282 percent.

Sara Maslar-Donar

Reporter, WKOW 27 News

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