One in Five Wisconsin High Schoolers Vape—A Public Health Crisis
An unregulated industry, it’s difficult to know what is in e-cigarettes and vapes, and at what levels. What we do know is that these products contain nicotine, with some cartridges having as much nicotine as a pack of cigarettes. Kids’ brains continue developing until they’re about 25 years old, and exposure to nicotine during this time can hurt their brain development, leading to long-term, long-lasting effects like mood disorders, lowered impulse control and damage to the parts of the brain that control attention and learning. Because their brains are still developing at this age, kids can also become addicted to nicotine more easily than adults.
Packaged in ever-changing sleek and discreet designs, the lure of using these products for adolescents is great. We became alarmed last year by the hugely popular JUUL, which looked an awful lot like a USB flash drive for a computer and came in appealing flavors like watermelon, mango and mint, so we created a video to educate parents and teachers about them. We’re now equally as concerned with newer iterations of these products; some look like an asthma inhaler, some like a watch, and some like the key fob for a car.
While we’ve been keeping up with what form these products will take next, we’ve also been busy tracking national and local cases of vaping hospitalizations and deaths due to severe lung damage from vaping, which continue to grow weekly. We issued a health alert in early September urging people to stop using vaping products, whether for nicotine or THC consumption, until the exact cause of the lung illness is known. That is still our advice. Additionally, our Tobacco and Nicotine Free Living team has continued to educate schools, parents, and policy makers about the concerns and dangers of these evolving products, and what strategies we have to reduce initiation of the products. We’re also keeping an eye on a number of bills that, if put into place, could reduce youth access to, and use of, these products.
Want to keep up with the latest in this rapidly-changing issue? Follow the Dane County Alliance Against Commercial Tobacco, or email Coordinator Ryan Sheahan to sign up for their newsletters. Want to get involved—join the Alliance!