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.
The excitement of a new school year is buzzing around us, along with anxiety about new challenges posed by the more transmissible Delta coronavirus variant. This means public health will continue to be a critical issue nationwide and in our region as we begin welcoming our college students back into our communities and our youth back to school.
Reducing tobacco use and exposure to secondhand smoke and aerosols emitting from e-cigarette use is a critical — but often overlooked — step toward making our lungs healthier and reducing the likelihood of catching the coronavirus and having severe COVID-19 symptoms. Tobacco use affects every organ of the body, including the immune system.
It is why people who smoke are at high risk of getting coronavirus and developing severe cases.
While the rate of smoking in New York has decreased significantly over the past 20 years, many rural counties continue to have high smoking rates. Based on the newly released 2018 Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System data, Otsego County’s smoking rate is 16.5%, above the state’s average of 12.8%. This high smoking rate and the current increase in COVID cases in Otsego county means reducing tobacco use now is imperative.