Vaping education lowers teen usage
As e-cigarette use, or vaping, has grown in popularity among Montana’s young, a stream of misinformation has caused some to deviate more than they might have realized.
According to Lake County Public Health, an increase in public awareness, especially in schools, is what’s needed to combat the issue. A lack of education remains the biggest obstacle in deterring nicotine use.
A national study conducted by Schroeder Institute at Truth Initiative in 2017 showed a concerning trend: Only 4 in 10 teenage users knew that JUUL products, a popular vaping brand, always contain nicotine. That left 60% of users unaware they are consuming nicotine and subsequently opening themselves up for addiction.
Julia Williams, Tobacco Prevention Specialist at Lake County Public Health, has seen this in action. “I don’t smoke, I vape.” She’s heard it several times before. Many of the kids she’s worked with in vaping education programs became addicted very quickly, and without knowing.
According to JUUL Labs themselves, a single cartridge contains approximately 40 mg nicotine per pod and is “approximately equivalent to about 1 pack of cigarettes.”
Williams states it’s often worse than that, with many JUUL cartridges containing the equivalent of three and a half packs. One hit off a vape pen is far more than the nicotine content of one tobacco cigarette.
An e-cigarette user could become the equivalent of a pack-a-day smoker without realizing it.
“This is of particular concern for young people, because it could make it easier for them to initiate the use of nicotine through these products and also could make it easier to progress to regular e-cigarette use and nicotine dependence,” wrote former Surgeon General Jerome Adams.
According to Adams some chemicals used to make certain flavors may also have health risks. The aerosols can potentially expose both the user and bystander to harmful substances like heavy metals, volatile organic compounds, and ultrafine particles.
There has also been a lack of regulation for vaping on a national level. Though vape pens have been on the market since 2007, e-cigarettes and vaping products did not become subject to the FDA’s authority until 2016. From that point, all e-cigarette products on the market needed authorization from the FDA to be legally marketed, however the agency deferred enforcement of the premarket authorization requirements. This means that for years no vaping products were authorized by the FDA.
It wasn’t until October 2021 that the FDA authorized its first ever e-cigarette products, approving three tobacco-flavored products by Vuse after finalizing an enforcement policy on the distribution and sale of unauthorized flavored cartridge-based e-cigarettes that would appeal to young people back in 2020.
The Family Smoking Prevention Act that allows the FDA the power to regulate tobacco products, defines a tobacco product as “any product made or derived from tobacco that is intended for human consumption.” In order to circumvent regulation, some e-cigarette companies, such as VaporSalon and NextGen Labs, are using synthetic nicotine in their products, which is not derived from tobacco.
According to Williams, synthetic nicotine does not have to list the amount of nicotine it contains.
In addition, according to a research paper published by Stanford University, a rise in “stealth vaping” videos online since 2018 show an increase in deceptive e-cigarette use. Examples include the Incognito LUXE and VaePlume disguised as pens, the Micro Vaped FOB disguised as car fobs, and even PUFFiT and QuickNIC disguised as asthma inhalers. Some e-cigarette cartridges even promote themselves as having low visibility plumes, or subtle odor to avoid detection.
“I am emphasizing the importance of protecting our children from a lifetime of nicotine addiction and associated health risks by addressing the epidemic of youth e-cigarette use,” Adams wrote. “The recent surge in e-cigarette use among youth, which has been fueled by new types of e-cigarettes… is cause for great concern.”
Williams shared that Lake County is the second highest for teen vape usage in Montana. Vaping in local schools has become enough of a problem that high schools have begun ticketing students. Teens in Lake County with tobacco violations end up in the Lake County Public Health tobacco prevention programs to learn about the real costs of smoking.
Some of those costs, according to Williams, are the monetary costs, showing teenagers the math on how much they actually spend on vaping in a year. Many are shocked to find the cost can add up to that of a used car.
Another thing the Tobacco Prevention programs stress is the toxicity in vaping. Though often touted as less harmful than traditional cigarettes, Williams explained that this is a common misconception. One such misunderstanding is that there is no secondhand smoke, when actually the “mist” that comes from a vape pen is an aerosol caused by the chemicals in the product, Williams explained.
While parents can sign their kids up for the education classes with Lake County Public Health, education is key for parents as well. “[Parents are asked] when and why are kids using tobacco?” Williams said. Examining the root cause of tobacco use can help overcome that use. Another important step is realizing the child needs a replacement when asked to remove a harmful habit.
“Quit Kits” are available for free at Lake County Public Health, including things like flavored toothpicks, hard candy, and sunflower seeds to help transition tobacco users away from dependence. Parents can suggest additional items they feel may also assist the transition, such as stress balls and fidget toys.
“Quitting is hard,” Williams said. “They’re quitting one of the most addictive substances on the planet. They’re going to have headaches, anxiety… It’s going to be difficult.” Support, education, and alternatives are crucial for success.
Lake County Public Health points those looking to quit nicotine to the Montana Tobacco Quit Line. The quit line offers free services to all Montanans including counseling, a personalized quit plan, and free and reduced cost tobacco cessation products. The quit line also offers individualized programs for pregnant women and Native Americans. Call 1-800-784-8669 or visit the Lake County Public Health website to learn more.
The My Life, My Quit program geared specifically toward the younger generation is also available. Participants can text “Start My Quit” to 36072, or chat online with a quit coach by going to mylifemyquit.com.