Bonnie Peck, Reality Check/Youth Engagement Coordinator with Advancing Tobacco Free Communities in Delaware, Otsego and Schoharie Counties and Hannah Pizza, nurse practitioner with the Middleburgh Healthy Zone- Bassett Healthcare’s school-based health program recently teamed up to help dispel vaping myths among Middleburgh school students. At the invitation of Matthew Sloane, Middleburgh Junior and Senior High School Principal, the duo set out to educate students and staff in grades 7-12 about the facts surrounding vaping and the use of e-cigarettes.
Schools and communities throughout New York State and the country are dealing with the epidemic of e-cigarette use among young people. E-cigarette use among high school youth has soared 160 percent in just four years. This dramatic increase in e-cig use among youth is unprecedented among trends in youth substance use. E-cigs are now used by a third of the high school population nationally.
Ms. Peck shared how the tobacco industry’s marketing of e-cigarettes/vapes has attracted many youth to become replacement tobacco users as well as guinea pigs with the new and emerging nicotine products. Reality Check works to reduce the prevalence of youth smoking and tobacco product sales to minors by decreasing the impact of retail tobacco product marketing on youth. The program also educates about tobacco imagery in the media and its influence on youth tobacco use.
Ms. Peck shared that e-cigarettes that include vapes and JUULs are not regulated by the FDA, are not harmless and have not been proven to be a safer alternative to cigarettes. “The aerosol produced by e-cigarettes is not water vapor, but a mixture of chemicals like nicotine, formaldehyde and acrolein with some heavy metals. Don’t be fooled by e-juice and JUUL pods with fruity flavors because most e-cigarettes contain nicotine,” according to Ms. Peck. One JUUL pod contains the equivalent nicotine of twenty traditional cigarettes and the flavorings are not safe to be inhaled into the lungs.
Ms. Pizza emphasized that e-cigarettes and even combustible cigarettes are not the way to deal with anxiety or depression. She said, “Nicotine exposure during adolescence can cause addiction and can harm the developing adolescent brain. Confidential cessation assistance is available from the school-based, on-site primary care health clinic and there is a health educator for smoking cessation based at the Bassett Healthcare Clinic in Cobleskill.” Ms. Pizza urged the teens to get support to help kick their vaping habits.
Principal Sloan emphasized that life is about choices and educating students and staff about the health effects of vaping is critical. “While educational assemblies will not eliminate vaping use, hopefully the information presented will deter any student who has not tried to avoid that first attempt and possibly change the minds of some.”