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Published on September 13th, 2018 | by Deb Wolf

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Vaping: unhealthy, addictive and expensive

Current PrEvents  |  The Times Argus | September 12, 2018

By JACK THOMPSON

In the 1950s, smoking cigarettes was quite popular. But as smoking became linked with lung cancer, the number of smokers declined. Now, companies have taken up new, “safer” products that have grown very popular recently. They’re better looking, better tasting and easier to hide. They’re called e-cigarettes. And according to the 2017 National Youth Tobacco Survey, 2.1 million teenagers use them.

First, some definitions: An e-cigarette is any electronic device used to heat a liquid called e-juice, which is then inhaled, or “vaped.” They go by a lot of names: vapes, vape pens, Juuls, e-hookahs, e-cigs, mods, tank systems. They come in all shapes and sizes, and some, like Juuls, are disguised as flash drives or highlighters.

The e-juices contain more than 100 different chemicals, many cancer-causing. Juul, the dominant e-cigarette company, sells e-juice that contains propylene glycol, a chemical used in antifreeze. E-cigarettes can give you cancer and lung disease. Additionally, the liquid contains nicotine, a drug that the surgeon general states is harmful for brain development at a critical time for teenagers. It’s as addictive as heroin and cocaine, according to the Council on Chemical Abuse, and a recent study shows that ninth-graders who vape are up to four times more likely to use marijuana later on.

E-cigarettes aren’t just unhealthy, they’re expensive. A single Juul pod has the same nicotine content as a pack of cigarettes. Often, Juul addicts go through a pod a day. Vaping would cost around $124 per month, totaling at least $1,460 dollars a year — well over the price of buying the best iPhone X. Plus, nicotine leaves people feeling anxious when their high is over. To get rid of that anxiety, they vape more, which gives temporary relief but then higher levels of anxiety follow, so the cycle repeats.

Why would kids try vaping in the first place if it’s so unhealthy? One of the big draws is the flavor. In 2009, tobacco companies were banned from using flavored tobacco because of how appealing it was to youth. However, that federal ruling only applied to cigarettes, allowing companies to use flavored e-juice. The California Department of Public Health shows that four out of five kids who have used tobacco started with a flavored product.

But e-cigarettes are newer and their dangers are less widely known. Corporations argue they are safer for you. After all, e-juices often contain fewer chemicals than cigarettes. But according to the Center for Disease Control, that doesn’t mean they are safe. The FDA has not approved e-cigarette use as an aid to quit smoking. It can lead to “dual use,” where the smoker tries to quit, but ends up hooked on vaping and smoking. Saying it’s safer to vape than to smoke is like saying it’s safer to stick a needle than a nail in your eyes. One may be “safer,” but either will leave you blind.

I’m a part of the Middle School Leadership Council at U-32. It’s a group that organizes school events and raises awareness about important issues. Last year, I got help from students, staff and community experts Ginny Burley, of Central Vermont New Directions Coalition, and Matthew Whalen, of Vermont Department of Health, to send out an anonymous survey to all students in the school about vaping. We received more than 200 responses, roughly one-fifth of the school.

Approximately 25 percent of students who took the survey admitted to having used an e-cigarette. If 25 percent of the whole school has vaped or still does, that’s 200 people. In addition, we asked if and where people had witnessed vaping. More than 50 percent said they had seen it on school property: 77 people saw it in the bathrooms, 69 in the parking lot, 60 outside, 54 in classrooms and 47 between classrooms.

I shared all I learned at MSLC’s Middle School Convention to educate as many students as possible of the dangers of e-cigarettes. I ended with this question: How can we solve this problem?

It’s important that you talk to your friends and family about this issue. Parents, you should let your kids know how dangerous vaping is. Check out the Parent Tip Sheet at e-cigarettes.surgeongeneral.gov/resources.html for more information. There is a lot of information on substances and teens, and how to talk about tough issues at ParentUpVT.org.

For students addicted to vaping, there is help. Talk to your SAP, school counselor or doctor. Find tools and tips for teens at teen.smokefree.gov . The national helpline for Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration is 1-800-622-HELP, which offers 24-hour free information to help you. Go to www.samhsa.gov/find-help/national-helpline/.

Current PrEvents is produced by the Central Vermont New Directions Coalition in Montpelier as part of the Regional Prevention Partnership grant from the Vermont Department of Health. Contact at currentprevents@gmail.com.

Jack Thompson is an eighth-grade student and a member of the Middle School Leadership Council at U-32 Middle and High School in East Montpelier.


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