The E-cigarette Epidemic Among Youth
The Lyme/Old Lyme Prevention Coalition is recognizing National Drug and Alcohol Fact Week (March 22-28) with a look at e-cigarettes, vaping and its impact on our youth. We are proud to be working with youth leaders at both the High School (REACH) and Middle School (Upstanders) to bring awareness to peers, families, and the community.
Considerable progress has been made in reducing cigarette smoking among our nation’s youth. However, the tobacco product landscape continues to evolve to include a variety of tobacco products, including smoked, smokeless, and electronic products, such as e-cigarettes. E-cigarettes are designed to deliver nicotine, THC (marijuana), flavorings, and other additives to the user via an inhaled aerosol. In 2018, more than 3.6 million U.S. youth, including 1 in 5 high school students and 1 in 20 middle school students, used e-cigarettes.
In 2019, Lymes’ Youth Service Bureau partnered with the schools to survey student use in grades 6-12. Data reveals that recent electronic cigarette use is reported by 10% of youth in grades 7-12 with use going up as students move to a higher grade.
E-cigarette aerosol is not harmless. Most e-cigarettes contain nicotine – the addictive drug in regular cigarettes, cigars, and other tobacco products. Nicotine exposure during adolescence can harm the developing brain – which continues to develop until about age 25. Nicotine exposure during adolescence can impact learning, memory, and attention. Using nicotine in adolescence can also increase risk for future addiction to other drugs. In addition to nicotine, the aerosol that users inhale and exhale from e-cigarettes can expose themselves and bystanders to other harmful substances, including heavy metals, volatile organic compounds, and ultrafine particles that can be inhaled deeply into the lungs.
Many e-cigarettes also come in kid-friendly flavors. In addition to making e-cigarettes more appealing to young people, some of the chemicals used to make certain flavors may also have health risks. E-cigarettes can also be used to deliver other drugs, including marijuana.
You Can Take Action
We must take steps to protect our children from these highly potent products that risk exposing a new generation of young people to nicotine. The bad news is that e-cigarette use has become an epidemic among our nation’s young people. However, the good news is that we know what works to effectively protect our kids from all forms of tobacco product use, including e-cigarettes. We must now apply these strategies to e-cigarettes, including USB flash drive shaped products such as JUUL and Puff Bars.
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