If your kids aren't vaping, their friends are

If your kids aren’t vaping, it’s a good bet their friends are
Posted on 01/06/2020
By PennLive Editorial Board

The good news in this new year is the National Institute of Health is continuing to see a decline in illegal drug use among teens – especially in the use of opioids.

There’s even been a decline in regular old cigarette smoking, and Pennsylvania lawmakers and the Trump Administration have raised the minimum age to 21 to buy tobacco or vaping products. All good news.

But here’s the bad news: more and more teens are vaping – both nicotine and marijuana. Many fear it’s likely to continue to increase in 2020, even with the new laws.

And many health advocates are disappointed the President Trump has passed on an opportunity to crush an industry that many believe is targeting teens.

The president seemed to be supporting a ban on flavored vaping products and e-cigarettes that attract youth, reportedly after First Lady Melania Trump expressed fears about the health impacts. She tweeted concerns about the flavored products attracting adolescents. But once industry lobbyists weighed in, the president’s resolve to ban them weakened, despite the warnings of so many physicians about the dangers– both immediate and long-term.

The Trump Administration announced Friday it will prohibit fruit, candy, mint and dessert flavors from small, cartridge-based e-cigarettes favored by high school and middle school students. But menthol and tobacco-flavored e-cigarettes will be allowed to remain on the market. Tank-based vaping devices also will not be prohibited.

The vaping industry is delighted. Those who care about the health of the next generation are not. The American Medical Association had called for a complete ban, and the American Lung Association says the industry is being allowed to continue to peddle disease and death to millions of young people.

“It’s disturbing to see the results of industry lobbying to undermine public health protections, especially the lives and health of our youth,” said American Lung Association President and CEO Harold Wimmer. He other health advocates fear teenagers will simply shift to menthol.

As of late November, the CDC had confirmed 2,290 vaping related lung injury cases, with 47 deaths. In October, Secretary of Health Dr. Rachel Levine announced one person in Pennsylvania had died of lung injuries, with another 9-12 cases of lung illnesses resulting from vaping.

Parents have every right to be alarmed. It’s a good bet if your children aren’t vaping or experimenting with e-cigarettes, they have friends who are. And there’s nothing like peer pressure to push a kid onto the wrong path.

The Committee on Oversight and Reform of the U.S. House investigated the practices of JUUL Labs, Inc., an electronic cigarette company, and found it specifically targeted teens with sophisticated messages and programs inside schools. The committee also found evidence the company even went so far as to targeted kids as young as eight years old in summer camps and after-school programs.

But there are efforts to fight back. Companies such as Rite Aid and CVS should be applauded for their decisions to stop selling e-cigarettes. And CVS has gone one step further in stopping sales of all tobacco products, not wanting to profit from an addiction that has brought so much misery to millions of people.

Some schools are also taking steps to hold the e-cigarette and vaping industries accountable.

The Quakertown Community School District recently joined legal efforts to go after companies that manufacture and market electronic cigarettes and vaping products. The school board unanimously adopted a resolution to have its lawyers file suit “to compensate the district for damages suffered by the district and its students as a result of the manufacture, marketing, sale and use of electronic-cigarettes and vaping products . . . “

Quakertown Superintendent Dr. Bill Harner supported the move, noting the significant increase in his students who are vaping. A Quakertown student became unconscious immediately after vaping in a bathroom stall and had to be taken from school by ambulance. The student was sharing someone else’s vaping device that was laced with THC -- the ingredient in marijuana that provides the high.

“It’s a growing problem at the high school,” Harner said. “This is serious business.”

Dr. Harner is right.
It is serious business. The Surgeon General of the United States has warned that e-cigarette use among U.S. middle and high school students increased 900 percent during 2011-2015. And in 2018, he said, more than 3.6 million youth were using e-cigarettes.

Vaping and e-cigarettes threaten to be among top issues of our next decade. Parents, teachers and anyone concerned about the threat to children should make their concerns known to their congressional representatives, as well as to state officials.

And they may want to let the White House know that the health of their children is more important than the wealth of the vaping industry.
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