Authored by Anne Schmidt, Outreach and Prevention Case Management Supervisor
As we begin a new year and focus on building healthy communities and lifestyles, Youth Services pauses to look at the health risks associated with E-cigarettes and how advertisers are bombarding our teens and young adults with sleek and enticing advertisements. E-cigarettes for vapor smokers and using pop celebrities to glamorize and endorse these products that have known health risks are harming individuals and targeted towards youth.
Studies by the Utah Department of Health in 2014 show an increase in electronic cigarette use among adults and teenagers. This trend is particularly alarming because of the increased use among teenagers. According to a study of 50,000 Utah students conducted by the Health Department 6 percent of students in 8th, 10th and 12th grade said they used e-cigarettes. So what are e-cigarettes and what potential threats do they pose to those who use them? Electronic cigarettes are devices that are battery-powered which turn liquid into an aerosol or vapor. It’s important to note that these liquids almost always contain nicotine. These devices are marketed under a variety of names. Some of the more common names are: electronic cigarettes, vapor pens, e-cigarettes, e-hookahs or hookah pens. E-cigarettes pose a threat because they are not very well regulated at this time and it is unknown what the long term effects of using them may be.
While those who manufacture e-cigarettes deny this, it would seem that the use of the fruit and candy-like flavors of the e-cigarette liquids is clearly an attempt to encourage teens to try the product. According to the Utah Department of Health some of the flavors available are: sugar cookie, bubble gum, cotton candy, gummy bear, root beer, and banana split. Unfortunately at this time there is no consistency with the labeling of the nicotine content in this product and consumers may be getting more nicotine than they are expecting. While e-cigarettes are frequently advertised as a “safe” alternative to traditional smoking; the recent study from the Health Department shows that 60% of respondents who report using e-cigarettes also report smoking traditional cigarettes as well. It would seem that this statistic indicates that for many people, e-cigarettes are not replacing traditional cigarettes; instead they are using both products.
Communities should push to keep youth under the age of 19 out of smoke shops selling these products. The Health Department is asking for more regulation on the people who sell these devices and to tax the product at a higher rate so that it is too expensive for kids and teens to buy. As a prevention team at Youth Services we are working very hard to educate youth in Salt Lake County about the dangers of e-cigarettes. It’s important for leaders to be aware of the dangers these products pose and to make sure that youth know the risks involved with using this product.
For more information about healthy lifestyles and teaching our youth about the disturbing effects of e-cigarettes and other harmful substances contact our prevention and outreach team at Salt Lake County Youth Services at 385-468-4500 or visit www.youth.slco.org. Our team offers onsite prevention discussions and classes to youth and families.