WEST HARTFORD, CT (WFSB) - State and federal lawmakers are looking into ways to curb the teen trend of "vaping."
Rep. Rosa DeLauro visited the Celentano Biotech, Health and Medical Magnet School in New Haven to announce the federal Youth Vaping Prevention Act.
"Cigarette smoking is down, but on the other hand this has increased," DeLauro said.
She said there are also some collaborative efforts coming with schools to prevent minors from using tobacco products.
"The increases over the last year are significant," DeLauro siad. "[In] 2018, 3.6 million middle school kids, high school kids, were vaping, and it's a very very serious increase."
DeLauro said the bill would close a federal tax loophole on electronic cigarettes, restrict kid-friendly and addictive flavors and crackdown on deceitful marketing. Age and identity verification methods would also be applied to internet sales.
DeLauro said major tobacco companies’ tactics of targeting youth with highly addictive nicotine remains the same, and now they are investing in the new market.
Juul is the self-proclaimed iPhone of e-cigs.
“When you have one of these Juul pods it is like a pack of cigarettes a day,” DeLauro said.
State Rep. Derek Slap, a Democrat, said he's hoping to address the growing concern during the upcoming state legislative session.
Beforehand, however, he wants to hear from people during a forum Tuesday night at Hall High School in West Hartford.
The state Department of Public Health recently released a youth tobacco survey.
Though cigarette smoking has decreased significantly among Connecticut youth, the DPH said the use of electronic cigarettes and vaping devices continues to increase at an alarming rate.
Students said seeing their peers vaping is a common occurrence.
“You look outside everybody is doing it, you go to the mall everybody is doing it, it’s like a new normal," said eighth grade student Zaneya Tolson.
“I want to say more than like half my group of people that I associate with they probably do that," said eighth grader Kaniyaah Parker.
Slap told Channel 3 that at Tuesday night's forum, people will hear from health and local education officials to determine the scope of the problem.
Then they'll discuss the best way to stem it on the state level.
They'll talk about possibly raising the age to 21 for all tobacco products, passing a vaping tax and use the funds for educational awareness, increasing regulations around internet sales and delivery restrictions, and banning flavors such as cotton candy.
Slap encouraged people to attend the forum, especially students who have seen the problem first-hand.
"What are they seeing in the high school, in the bathroom, in the hallways right?" Slap said. "Because we know it's an epidemic. We want to listen to everyone and find the best solution."
The forum starts at 6:30 p.m. at Hall High School.