Surgeon General wants more action against vaping, building stronger communities

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BISMARCK, N.D. - Addiction, violence, suicide and vaping. All things that threaten the health of American communities.

U.S. Surgeon General Vice Admiral Jerome Adams told hundreds gathered for the Governor's Main Street Summit Wednesday that he's frustrated with the dysfunction in Washington D.C., and says his office wants to find ways to empower local communities to make changes affecting community health. Adams delivered the morning keynote at the conference, focusing on building healthy communities.

He celebrated the work of First Lady Kathryn Helgaas Burgum in her work trying to reduce the stigma around addiction. Vice Admiral Adams knows what addiction can do to families. His brother is currently in prison because of crimes he committed while fighting a heroin addiction. His talk centered around building healthy communities. While the state has made numerous steps to address opioids, it looks like vaping will be the next battle.

“I gotta tell you after being out here even for a little bit, I can't wait to come back,” said Adams.

North Dakota certainly made an impression on U.S. Surgeon General Vice Admiral Jerome Adams. Now he's hoping to leave his mark on North Dakota communities.

"Healthier communities are better for business and better business communities promote greater health,” said Adams.

After two legislative sessions focusing on the opioid crisis, Adams says North Dakota lawmakers need to turn their focus to tobacco and vape products.

"We want businesses to understand that the number two expense for most companies is healthcare and the biggest driver of healthcare expenses is smoking rates,” said Adams.

Adams' speech inspired Minot student Becca Tschetter to reach out to health leaders and take more action against vaping.

"It's not allowed at school but I know kids still try to sneak it around, especially in the bathrooms,” said Tschetter. Tschetter says her school could follow other districts and install vape detectors in the bathroom.

“This is not just harmless water vapor. Though it may be safer for someone who is smoking combustible cigarettes, vaping is not safe. It’s never proven to be safe,” said Adams.

It's not common that a Surgeon General comes to North Dakota. Why not take the message to a larger city? He says his time growing up in a small town in southern Maryland, he learned smaller towns are what drives the country.