by Nicole Greco
Electronic cigarettes are gaining popularity among teenagers, and health officials are urging parents to talk to their kids about this dangerous trend. The Roxbury school district welcomed recognized D.A.R.E officer and Ramsey Police Sgt. Timothy Shoemaker to discuss ways to recognize and help break the habit on October 26.
Geri Esposito, Eisenhower Middle School’s student assistance counselor, says students fall victim to misleading information about electronic cigarettes (e-cigarettes). “Unfortunately vaping is a growing trend,” she said, “Many students have misconceptions on the use of [e-cigarettes] being a healthy alternative to smoking and many find it as a fun pastime; what they are missing is that although possibly a safer choice, it’s still not healthy.
“I am seeing that students who would never smoke are vaping because of those misconceptions,” said Esposito.
Electronic cigarettes are devices that heat a nicotine-containing liquid and produce an aerosol mix of small particles, or vapor, in the air. The liquid is heated by a battery-powered heating element within the device. Some look like traditional cigarettes, cigars and pipes while other models are designed to look like USB flash drives, pens and other items that would camouflage well within the backpack of a student. Using an e-cigarette is called vaping or “JUULing.”
According to a statement provided to the “Roxbury News” by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), JUUL is a USB flash drive-shaped brand of e-cigarette that contains as much nicotine as a pack of 20 regular cigarettes. JUUL is the top selling e-cigarette brand nationwide and the CDC reports widespread use of JUUL by students in classrooms and bathrooms.
Using nicotine in adolescence can harm the areas of the brain that control attention, learning, mood and impulse control. For example, each time a new memory is created or a new skill is learned, strong connections called synapses are built between brain cells. Children and teens build synapses faster than adults, but nicotine damages the way these synapses are formed according to the CDC’s statement.
Local and national enforcement agencies report that use of e-cigarettes and nicotine could lead to drug use among adolescents. Between the fear of creating substance dependency and the known health risks of nicotine, the Food and Drug Administration issued a stern warning to e-cigarette manufacturers in September that they risk a product ban if they do not submit plans to ensure the devices are not marketed to teenagers.
“We’re committed to announcing a new action plan by mid-November that will set forth a series of new, forceful steps to firmly confront and reverse the youth addiction trends that are at epidemic levels,” said FDA Commissioner Dr. Scott Gottlieb in a statement provided to the “Roxbury News.”
Gottlieb is meeting with manufacturers as part of an escalating crackdown on youth tobacco use.
“Their proposals at the meetings reflected a ranges of ideas: For instance, that the FDA restrict distribution of certain flavored products to channels with enhanced age verification processes, or that the agency require certain products that are more appealing to kids to come off the market until these products receive pre-market authorization from the agency.”
The FDA has been especially critical of manufacturers that distribute flavored tobacco and vapor products that would appeal to a younger audience like bubble gum and fruit flavors. And the agency acknowledged the need to make it more difficult for teenagers to purchase the devices.
“The companies also acknowledged the power of social sourcing of tobacco products- in other words, of-age purchasers sharing or selling products to underage friends,” said Gottlieb.
Last year, then-governor Chris Christie signed a law increasing the minimum age to buy tobacco and e-cigarettes to 21. It has yet to be seen whether the move will curb e-cigarette use among teens.
“What I wish for parents to know is that it’s very important to never think ‘not my kid,” said Esposito. “I would say that all parents should be properly informed of the dangers and trends of vaping to better help educate their kids.”