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Flavored vaping solutions are shown in a window display at a vape and smoke shop, Monday Sept. 16, 2019, in New York. New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo is pushing to enact a statewide ban on the sale of flavored e-cigarettes amid growing health concerns of vaping. (AP Photo/Bebeto Matthews)

NASHVILLE — Some of Tennessee's largest health care advocacy organizations are urging Gov. Bill Lee and the Tennessee General Assembly to ban flavors in electronic cigarettes, or vaping devices, in response to emerging public health issues.

In a letter sent Tuesday, more than a dozen associations petitioned the Governor to implement "an emergency temporary measure to restrict Tennessee youth from obtaining vaping products," and encouraged the Tennessee General Assembly to "take more permanent legislative action when it convenes in 2020," according to a news release from the Tennessee Medical Association, which initiated and coordinated the letter. The Tennessee Medical Association is a statewide nonprofit advocacy organization that represents physicians.

The groups cite the sudden outbreak of vaping-related illnesses as cause for immediate government intervention, pointing to three dozen cases in Tennessee and more than 1,000 cases nationwide. Eighteen deaths have also been confirmed in 15 states, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's most recent data. 

Vaping use among teenagers continues to climb despite fears over the risk of exposure to many other chemicals in the liquid solutions. Public health advocates are most concerned about flavored products that are intentionally packaged to mimic candy, juices or other kid-friendly products and marketed directly to adolescents. 

In Chattanooga, the Children's Hospital at Erlanger has created a new youth cessation clinic to combat e-cigarette use in patients under age 21. Last week, Erlanger officials said at least one child had been admitted to the emergency department because they were unable to breathe from acute respiratory failure due to e-cigarette use. 

The Tennessee Medical Association overwhelmingly passed an emergency resolution in May during the association's annual policy meeting supporting a legislative ban on the sale of flavored vaping products in Tennessee. 

Tennessee could join at least five other states that have already restricted or banned the sale and/or marketing of flavored vaping products, while federal officials consider new regulations or possible removal of flavored vaping devices from the market.

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