News from the Noteworthy
As most know, vaping is a nationwide epidemic. In New York State, vaping or e-cigarette use among high school students spiked in just four years, from 10.5% in 2014 to 27.4% in 2018. This past spring, some schools in Otsego, Delaware and Schoharie Counties observed 80-90% of their high school students vaping. More worrisome is how often youth vape. The 2021 National Youth Tobacco Survey found that 2.55 million youth used e-cigarettes, with 44% of high school e-cigarette users vaping on 20 or more days a month and 28 percent using e-cigarettes every day. More than 8% of middle school students who vape use e-cigarettes every day.
It has long been argued that it’s the smoke and not the nicotine that kills, but addiction to nicotine, especially during adolescence can cause long-term harm to brain development and respiratory health. Nicotine has been found to impact attention, learning, and memory negatively. The e-liquids in vapes often have high concentrations of nicotine. Juul, one of the largest e-cigarette companies, sells pods which contain 20 cigarettes worth of nicotine.
E-cigarettes also allow users to inhale nicotine continuously while cigarettes have smaller, measured amounts and allow for smokers to take longer breaks in between smoking each one. Teenagers who start vaping can become addicted within days. People who vape are also more likely to smoke cigarettes, an ironic twist on the tobacco industry’s claim that vaping helps people quit smoking. E-liquids also often contain other harmful ingredients, including metal particles and chemicals found in cigarette smoke that can cause irreversible lung damage.
As with regular cigarettes, the tobacco industry markets e-cigarettes primarily to youth, knowing that once youth start vaping, they will be long-time customers.
Adding sweet, enticing flavors to e-cigarettes is key to addicting youth, which has prompted parents, schools, healthcare providers, and other organizations to push for bans on flavors in e-cigarette. In 2020, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) restricted flavors in cartridge-based e-cigarettes, such as Juuls, to just menthol and tobacco, but the flavor ban didn’t apply to disposable e-cigarettes, such as Puff Bars. It’s no surprise that with flavors like Blue Razz and Banana Ice, Puff Bar has overtaken Juul as the favorite e-cigarette for teens. The 2021 National Youth Tobacco Survey cited above reported 85% of the 2.55 million youth who vaped used flavored e-cigarettes, demonstrating the continuing availability of flavored vapes.
While the FDA and New York State have taken measures to reduce youth e-cigarette use through national and state policies, local efforts are needed to combat the epidemic of teen e-cigarette use. Tobacco Free Communities: Delaware, Otsego & Schoharie (TFC-DOS) works with community organizations, schools and young people to reduce youth e-cigarette use and prevent youth from initiating tobacco use in our tricounty area. Our youth program, Reality Check, empowers high school students to counter the tobacco industry’s deceptive marketing practices that aim to addict them to their harmful products. For more information, contact Reality Check Coordinator, Nicole Schuck at Nicole.Shuck@sphp.com.
Jennifer Hill is
Community Engagement Coordinator,
Tobacco Free Communities Delaware, Otsego & Schoharie