Gov. Walz gets students' perspective on vaping during roundtable discussion

Updated: October 22, 2019 06:30 PM

Gov. Tim Walz heard firsthand the extent of the vaping epidemic in Minnesota schools Tuesday morning.

The tour of Hopkins High School in Minnetonka and two other schools this week is meant to help the current administration understand why so many teens in Minnesota are using vapes and e-cigarettes.


Students told Walz it’s a daily problem during a roundtable discussion.

“I know some kids that didn't even want to go to the bathroom because they were scared some kids might be in there vaping,” student Jens Dohse said.

Other students told the governor, lieutenant governor and the commissioners of health and education many students still believe vaping is a safe alternative to smoking.

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“A lot of kids think, 'Oh, vaping is [a good way] to quit cigarettes,'” student Claire Hering said. “Like, 'It's lower nicotine. It's better for you.' Things like that. But the reality is the nicotine can be just as much — if not higher — as a cigarette would be.“

A recent student survey found the number of eighth-graders who report using these products nearly doubled from 2016.

In addition to highlighting the rise of e-cigarette use among eighth-graders, the 2019 Minnesota Student Survey also found one in four 11th graders say they vape.

Many students we talked to say the number of students vaping on a regular basis is actually closer to 30 to 40 percent.

Walz says he’ll consider a number of ways to combat vaping, but won’t likely pursue outlawing it altogether.

“They told us, 'Don't criminalize this,'” the governor said after the meeting. “'Don't make us bad people. Understand why this is happening and address it that way.'”

The governor is considering banning flavored vape products that appeal to young people and raising the age to use tobacco and nicotine products to 21.

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Tom Hauser

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