Overall youth tobacco use has increased for the first time since 2000. A study of Minnesota high school youth showed a 50 percent increase in electronic cigarettes usage over regular cigarette usage since 2014, with one in five high school students having tried e-cigarettes. While school districts and public health services across the state are working to address tobacco use among adolescents, it is important for parents to have an understanding of what e-cigarettes are, how the use of nicotine effects youth development and ways to address the growing health concern.
Electronic cigarettes, often referred to as E-cigarettes, are battery operated devices that contain an aerosolized liquid called e-juice. While conventional cigarettes are “smoked”, when an individual uses an e-cigarette it is referred to as “vaping”. There are several different types of e-cigarettes, including vape pens, hookah pens, e-pipes and the latest, JUUL. JUUL is a popular e-cigarette used among youth for several reasons. This particular e-cigarette resembles a USB flash drive and has a decreased odor, which makes it easier to hide. Like other vaping products, JUUL is available in several fruit, candy and mint flavors which all entice youth.
Despite the common misconception among youth that vaping is safe, nearly all e-cigarettes contain a mixture of liquid nicotine and other chemicals. The concentration of nicotine in JUUL alone is twice that of other e-cigarettes and easily absorbed into the body. A single JUUL pod may contain as much nicotine as 20 conventional cigarettes.
There is no safe amount of nicotine. It is highly addictive and harmful to adolescent brain development. Even limited use of nicotine in youth can cause lifelong changes in their brain development including decreased attention span and ability to learn, trouble with memorization, mental health/behavioral concerns and an increased risk of future addictions to other substances.
With the increased use of vaping products, along with the danger it poses for youth, it is time for our community to come together and do what we can to educate and advocate for the students at MCC. The most important thing we can do, which may sometime be challenging, is to talk to our youth about the health risks of using e-cigarettes. This includes clearing any misconceptions they may have about the safety of vaping, along with how to handle peer pressure.
For more information, please refer to the Minnesota Department of Health website at http://www.health.state.mn.us/ecigarettes or feel free to call the MCC Health Office at 507-836-1734.
Amanda Tentinger LSN PHN