Walz hears from students on vaping

A group of people hold a roundtable discussion
Gov. Tim Walz leads a round table discussion on vaping with students and staff at Hopkins High School on Tuesday.
Tim Pugmire | MPR News

Updated: 4:10 p.m.

Gov. Tim Walz went to Hopkins High School on Tuesday to talk with students about the dangers of vaping.

A recent statewide survey found a dramatic increase in the use of e-cigarettes among young people, and low recognition of the health effects.

Walz told a small group of students that he wants their assistance in crafting a solution.

“I want to be very clear. We’re not coming here to deliver a ‘Just Say No’ message that is unsophisticated and doesn’t work,” Walz said. “We’re here to ask you to help us.”

Walz described the increase in vaping among students as an epidemic. He is looking at several ways to address the issue, including possible age restrictions on purchases. Walz wants lawmakers to pass anti-vaping measures in the 2020 session.

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Walz has scheduled similar discussions with students this week in St. Cloud and Faribault.

“I have friends who are affected by this vaping. I want to help them out,” said Hopkins sophomore Yvette Ntegeye during the roundtable discussion.

Junior Claire Hering described her recent struggles to quit vaping. Hering told the governor that she and other students turned to vaping to cope with mental health issues.

“They’re lost, and they don’t know what to do. So, they go to drugs, and like vaping is such an easy drug to get,” Hering said.

After the meeting, Education Commissioner Mary Cathryn Ricker praised Hering for raising the mental health connection to vaping and the need for support systems within schools.

“Students understand that we have to tackle these together and adults in their lives should support them,” Ricker said.

Correction (Nov. 22, 2019) A previous version of this story incorrectly stated Walz’s stance on a ban on flavored e-cigarettes. Earlier this week, the governor said he’s no longer considering such ban.