(Editor's Note: This is the sixth in a series exploring the total health of Cleveland and Bradley County residents. While the series looks at the big picture of health, it also addresses specific …
(Editor's Note: This is the sixth in a series exploring the total health of Cleveland and Bradley County residents. While the series looks at the big picture of health, it also addresses specific components, as well as options for self-improvement.)
Just as cigarettes had their heyday, so have e-cigarettes, or vapes; however the difference is that right now, vaping is growing in popularity, and it’s not simply being used to quit smoking.
In the United States, youth are more likely than adults to use e-cigarettes, according to STATESystem through the CDC. In 2018 alone, more than 3.6 million U.S. youth, including one in five (20.8%) high school students and one in 20 (4.9%) middle school students used e-cigarettes.
In 2017, 6.9 million U.S. adults, or one in 36 (2.8%) of adults, used e-cigarettes/vapes.
A vape is any electronic device that can be used to deliver nicotine or other substances to the person inhaling from the device, including — but not limited to — e-cigarettes, e-cigars, e-pipes, e-hookahs, vape pens and other electronic nicotine delivery systems (ENDS).
The Bradley County Health Department has been stepping up its tobacco-prevention efforts in the past few years with a variety of programs meant to address the growing trend in vaping.
“We’ve seen that our population in Bradley County has mostly switched from using cigarettes to e-cigarettes,” stated health department health educator Amy Davenport. “The term ‘vaping’ is a broad slang term for ENDS usage.”
The health department already partners with local schools and community agencies specifically for tobacco prevention, but Davenport says the quick rise of vaping has caused them to focus heavily on vaping education, as well.
Part of the school collaboration involves forming peer-to-peer collaborative groups of teens called Tennessee Teens Talk Tobacco. This group of educated young people takes the statistics the health department gathers displaying the dangers and health effects of vaping and distributes it among their peers at school.
The prevalence of vapes such as Juuls is a cause of concern for the health department, let alone parents, with the small vapes resembling flash drives being easily hidden away within a pocket or sleeve in class.
“Vapes are very enticing to kids. There are all these different flavors. Plus, you’ve got all these companies that are marketing to younger demographics,” stated Brittany Hopkins, director of the Bradley County Health Department.
She added they’ve discovered that even vapes which claim to not have nicotine in them have trace amounts of the alkaloid. Nicotine itself is highly addictive, and toxic to developing fetuses, and can harm adolescent brain development, which continues into the early to mid-20s.
Some brands, like Juul, actually contain more nicotine than an ordinary e-cigarette, which gives users a nicotine buzz much more quickly with fewer draws for less money.
Hopkins said the potential for children to get addicted to the product is even higher and faster than standard cigarettes because of these factors.
Are e-cigarettes less harmful than regular cigarettes? Yes and no. Vape aerosol generally contains fewer toxic chemicals than the deadly mix of 7,000 chemicals in smoke from regular cigarettes; however, vape aerosol is not harmless. It can contain harmful and potentially harmful substances, including nicotine, heavy metals like lead, volatile organic compounds and cancer-causing agents.
Davenport said the health department tries to focus on the overall financial impact cigarette smoking and vaping can have on a person, and will display the total cost in presentations to both teens and adults. Even if they enjoy the activity, the cost will often turn them off from using frequently.
All states except Michigan and Pennsylvania have laws preventing the sale of e-cigarettes to minors. These statistics were gathered by the CDC and enacted as of Sep. 30, 2018.
One major argument vape companies use is that the activity helps adults quit smoking. Juul, specifically, has been marketing this factor to adults in TV advertising. While there is no definite indicator that vaping is a better alternative, it may help non-pregnant adult smokers if used as a complete substitute for all cigarettes and other smoked tobacco products.
“That’s not the right conversation to have, though. There’s a tiny ratio of the population who are using this to stop smoking, but the majority of users are young people who never smoked before, and who started vaping because it looked cool or because the tasty flavors enticed them to try it,” Hopkins said.
In addition to Tennessee Teens Talk Tobacco, the health department has a Freedom From Smoking program, which features a tobacco counselor teaching classes as well as Baby and Me Tobacco Free, which is meant to help pregnant women and their partners stop smoking.
In the future, the health department plans to continue spreading educational awareness of the health effects of smoking and vaping in the school system, as this age group is the most at-risk to smoke or vape.
Hopkins and Davenport advise that if you’ve never smoked or used tobacco products or vapes, don’t start. Also, for parents, let your child know that you want them to stay away from all tobacco products, including vapes, because they are not safe for them, they stressed. In their way of thinking, it’s never too late.
For more information, check out the Tennessee Strong Movement or the Tennessee Department of Health through https://www.tn.gov or the CDC’s website.
Vaping is here, and it’s not going anywhere anytime soon, the health department officials agreed. That being the case, they stressed whether you vape or not is entirely up to you.
(Next: In recent years, mental health has become more of a topic regarding a person's total health. That's true in Cleveland and Bradley County, as well, as featured in Wednesday's edition of the Cleveland Daily Banner.)
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