E-cigarettes are a growing public health concern in Utah. Often promoted as a “safe” or “safer” alternative to smoking traditional cigarettes, many Utah residents are jumping on the E-cig (vaping) bandwagon. You may have noticed several stores that sell “vape” products popping up all over the Salt Lake Valley.
E-cigarettes are a new tobacco product. These battery operated devices deliver doses of nicotine and other additives to the user in an aerosol vapor instead of the smoke found in cigarettes. This aerosol is not a water vapor it contains nicotine and other toxins. E-cig emissions are also considered to be a health concern to those exposed to it secondhand. It may not be as dangerous as secondhand cigarette smoke, but people exposed to e-cigarette aerosol absorb nicotine at levels comparable to people exposed to secondhand smoke. Nicotine is a highly addictive drug that among other things increases your heart rate and causes nervousness. Though studies have found that there are lower levels of carcinogens in e-cigarettes over traditional cigarettes, they still contain chemicals that are known to cause cancer, birth defects, and other reproductive problems.
Despite the fact that Utah has some of the lowest rates of cigarette use in the nation and was among the first of the states to pass a law prohibiting the sale of e-cigarette products to minors, e-cigarettes have surpassed cigarettes in popularity among Utah teens. In a study recently released by the Utah Department of Health, e-cigarettes have overtaken cigarettes in popularity among Utah teens for the first time. This study found that among 8th, 10th and 12th graders nearly 11% reported using an e-cigarette in the past month compared to 5.8% two years ago.
The adolescent brain is much more susceptible to addiction including nicotine addiction than an adult brain, so this recent trend needs to be taken seriously. The best thing to do is to educate your kids of the dangers and consequences to possessing and/or using any tobacco product including e-cigarettes.
Be clear with your kids that all tobacco products are off limits. Inform your children that e-cigarettes contain nicotine and are highly addictive. Also, inform your child that it is against the law to use or possess any tobacco products including e-cigarettes. This citation carries with it a minimum fine of $60 and may include participation in a court-approved tobacco education program which may include a participation fee. (Utah Code §76-10-105)
As parents, it may be difficult to know if your child is using e-cigarettes, because they don’t smell like regular cigarettes. E-cigs may not have any odor at all, but some are flavored like chocolate, fruit punch, bubble gum or mint. Also E-cigs come in various forms. Some look like traditional cigarettes, others may look like a pen or even a flash drive. As always, the best thing is to educate yourself then educate your children.
For more information about all of Salt Lake County Youth Services programs please call 385-468-4500 or visit www.youth.slco.org.