The Clinton County Health Department held a public information session Wednesday evening on the spike in vaping use among youth. Panelists presented regional data and parents talked about how easily children can obtain the products.
Smoking and e-cigarette use in New York’s northernmost county is higher than the statewide average. According to the Clinton County Health Department, the adult smoking rate in Clinton County is 24.7 percent, more than 10 points higher than the statewide average of 14.2 percent. Of even greater concern is the growth in e-cigarette, or vaping, use by youth. Across the state, youth vaping doubled between 2014 and 2016. Clinton County Public Health Director John Kanoza believes vaping youth are not aware of the addiction danger they face. “Researchers generally indicate there are three primary reasons for this. First the teens believe that vaping is less harmful than smoking cigarettes. Second e-cigarettes, vaping products, have a lower cost than typical cigarettes. And third vape cartridges are often formulated with flavorings. You’ve got apple pie, watermelon, berries that appeal to young users.”
Tobacco-Free Clinton Franklin and Essex program Director Dana Bushey Isabella said flavored e-cigarettes are hurting the group’s efforts aimed at limiting youth smoking. “The vape association lobbyist told us the flavors are getting a bad rap, the kids don’t care about flavors. Well a young lady last summer she said ‘how are youth to tell the difference between candy and tobacco products? I walk in and I don’t know where the candy ends and the cigarette begins.’ That is a quote from a young person that we ran into.”
The FDA released proposed guidelines Wednesday designed to restrict the sales of flavored vaping products to youth at convenience stores and online.
Panelist Tanya Brandmeier explained that she asked a group of 13-year-olds if it was easy for them to obtain vaping products. “They put their cash all in and they went and bought a gift card and then went on the computer and picked their watermelon and licorice flavor. They all decided on what they wanted and then hit ‘I am 18-years-old’. They had it shipped to a house that parents weren’t strict about things that came into the home and then handed it out. So I also asked a 10-year-old if they knew how to do that. And believe me they did it way quicker than I could ever turn on a computer. As a mom I’m shocked about that and something has to change.”
Stafford Middle School eighth grade teacher Kim Quinn says her students have shown her how vaping materials can be camouflaged and brought into schools. “For instance there’s a hoodie. It has the ability to kind of hide your system and it can be kind of a secretive way to use your e-cigarette, your JUUL. There are pens that you can use or markers that you can hide your JUUL in and it looks like a marker. There are zip drives. But it’s like who knew? The kids know.”
According to the U.S. Surgeon General, e-cigarettes include nicotine and other harmful materials including heavy metals, volatile organic compounds, and ultrafine particles.