Central New York tobacco prevention experts say awareness and education are key to warning teen and the community of the dangers posed by e-cigarettes. The US surgeon general warned in an unusual advisory this week that youth vaping is now an epidemic, and threatens to hook a new generation on nicotine.
Elizabeth Toomey with the Prevention Network says vaping needs to be seen the same way as tobacco…
“For a long time tobacco was like, ‘Ew, we’re not going to smoke.’ Well vaping is doing the same thing and we need to get that information out to our young people.”
The problem seems to be the delivery method and appealing flavors. Toomey says many think it’s harmless…
“Those little pods that you put into your vaping device actually have more nicotine in them than a pack of cigarettes.”
Chris Owens is Director of the CNY Center for Tobacco Health Systems at Saint Joseph’s Health. He says the problem goes beyond the addictive nicotine.
“The patient doesn’t always make that mental connection between e-cigarettes and tradition tobacco products and that it is harmful for their body.”
There are numerous other dangerous chemicals in the solution. Owens and Toomey say the marketing of “vape-wear” doesn’t help.
“It’s a hoodie, but you hook your vape pen to the hoodie, and the strings of your hoodie are now your vaping device. And knapsacks that you hook your device up and you just have a little piece that comes out from your knapsack that you can vape through.”
And it's not just vape-wear that contributes to the inconspicuous nature of vaping. Owens also notes that many adults don’t realize just how harmful teens’ vaping habits can be.
“Because they have these non-traditional looks to it, that’s where it’s hard for their parents, their educators, and other adults in their lives to maybe overlook these devices. Also coupled with the fact vapor doesn’t smell like a traditional tobacco product, and so it’s very easily overlooked from an outsider’s perspective.”
Reports locally and nationally show e-cigarette use among high school and even middle school students has increased dramatically in the past year.