NEPTUNE, N.J. (WCBS 880) — As the federal government tries to prevent children and teenagers from picking up e-cigarettes, New Jersey’s largest health network has launched a $1 million anti-vaping campaign.
Hackensack Meridian Health wants to encourage teenagers to avoid vaping with its new “Take Vape Away” initiative.
“As a father and health care executive for 35 years, I am alarmed at the vaping epidemic, especially among our children and believe we must take an aggressive, multi-targeted approach,” said Robert C. Garrett, CEO of Hackensack Meridian Health.
Garrett notes that $750,000 will be going towards research, as there is still no known cause for the lung illnesses.
Many people and the vaping industry has said the illnesses are caused by people using black market e-cigarette products, but New Jersey Health Commissioner Judy Persechilli says vaping of any kind can cause harm.
“They may be right, it may be the black market. But at the end of the day, any vaping – whether it’s black market or not – can cause injury to a lung. Inhaling things, elements that don’t belong there is toxic,” she said.
Pulmonologist Dr. Nader Nakhleh has been closely studying the lung illness and notes “there is a pattern of inflammation more than infection, as we would call it.”
Part of the funding from Hackensack Meridian Health will provide grants to school districts and community groups to allow teens to bring in vaping devices in a sort of “buy-back” program.
The rest of the money will go towards education efforts to inform children about the dangerous of inhaling vapor, according to Garrett.
The announcement came on the same day that 21-year-old Kerry Chonsky spoke out about her experience with vaping, saying using e-cigarettes nearly ended her life.
“I can’t believe I put that into my body and I think everyone else should think twice about what they are putting into their body,” she said Thursday.
She spent 10 days in a pediatric ICU and though she struggles to breathe now that she has been released, she’s still one of the lucky ones.
Meanwhile, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports nearly 1,300 people have been affected by a vaping-related illnesses.