The General Assembly in Massachusetts and the city council in New York City recently voted to ban flavored vaping products. Thinkstock

Electronic-cigarettes are delivery systems for the highly addictive drug nicotine. They consist of battery-operated devices with a heating element (atomizer) that vaporizes liquid nicotine. This solution turns into a mist that people inhale or “vape.” The nicotine solution includes other chemicals, such as formaldehyde and acrolein which can cause irreversible lung damage. E-liquid with more ingredients has greater toxicity.

The Connecticut Mirror has reported that The Connecticut State Department of Public Health (DPH) released the Youth Tobacco Survey results. This research showed that high school students’ vaping doubled from 7.2 percent in 2015 to 14.7 percent in 2017. This health risk to Connecticut’s youth has reached epidemic proportions.

The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine published Public health consequences of e-cigarettes in 2018. According to this research, millions of Americans use e-cigarettes. The report indicates that the pace of smoking cigarettes continues to decline among adults and young people.  The majority of people vaping e-cigarettes are current smokers trying to quit or cut down on the number of cigarettes they smoke. The American Vaping Association, a nonprofit organization, advocates the use of e-cigarettes to help people quit smoking cigarettes. However, in 2016 the number of youth smoking e-cigarettes was substantially higher than those smoking cigarettes.

The Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report in 2018 focused on a study conducted by The Center for Disease Control and the United States Food and Drug Administration.  The researchers surveyed thousands of young students and found that 38 percent of high school students used e-cigarettes at least once and that 13 percent of middle school students tried e- cigarettes. These numbers are probably higher because the legal age to purchase e-cigarettes is 18 in most states. However, as of September 15, 2018 the legal age to purchase e-cigarettes is 21 in California, Connecticut, the District of Columbia, Massachusetts, Hawaii, Maryland, New Jersey, and Oregon.

The report also stated that in 2017, an estimated 2.95 million or 19.6 percent of high school students reported using tobacco products.  E-cigarettes were the most commonly used tobacco product among high school students (11.7 percent).  Approximately one in five high school students (2.95 million) and one in 18 middle school students (0.67 million) used a tobacco product. Since 2014, e-cigarettes have been the most commonly used tobacco product among both middle and high school students.

The Wall Street Journal’s article titled Youth Vaping Has Soared in 2018, New Data Show stated that e-cigarette use by high school students increased by 75 percent in just 30 days compared to one year ago.

Vaping also continues to rise in popularity among college students. College students join campus vaping communities or vape clubs to meet other vapers.  Campus rules and policies regarding vaping are developing along the same lines as other substances, such as alcohol and cigarettes.

Most young people vaping e-cigarettes are not trying to quit or cut down on the number of cigarettes they smoke.  Many of our youth learn about vaping from social media; try it because they are curious; and think that it is the cool thing to do with their friends. Different flavors also draw young people to vaping such as menthol, chocolate, cherry and approximately 15,000 others.

Many people of all ages think that vaping is a safe alternative to smoking cigarettes. This is a spurious thinking. The American Lung Association stated that the consumption of nicotine in any form during adolescence and young adulthood causes lasting learning and behavioral problems, including negative effects on memory and attention. In addition, e-cigarette use may serve as a doorway for middle school and high school students to use other tobacco products, including cigarettes that cause heart disease, lung cancer, emphysema, and premature death.  The delivery systems are also unsafe as vape pens can explode and cause serious injury and death.

The American Lung Association asked the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to increase oversight of e-cigarettes to protect our youth from becoming addicted to nicotine products. Public officials are also responding to this epidemic.  United States Senators including Sens. Richard Blumenthal (Connecticut) and Elizabeth Warren (Massachusetts) called for a ban in 2018. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is now focusing on unregulated nicotine delivery systems.

Prevention

Most schools address substance abuse in a variety of prevention programs.  Individuals engaged in substance- abuse prevention can address vaping in addition to alcohol abuse and smoking cigarettes. For example, the misperception that vaping is safe even with e-cigarettes that do not contain nicotine can be clarified. Substance abuse specialists can educate teachers on the health risks associated with vaping and in turn, they can present one health risk related to vaping to students each week during class time.

Parental involvement is paramount in any substance abuse prevention effort. For example, parents can get involved with vaping prevention by participating in lectures on the health risks associated with vaping at the school. They can share this information with their sons and daughters at home in a piecemeal fashion. This will buttress the substance abuse specialists’ efforts.

Educating people of all ages from the fifth grade through college and beyond concerning the dangerous health risks associated with vaping is essential in order for individuals to make informed decisions regarding whether to vape.

Leave a comment

Cancel reply