When it comes to e-cigarette use among youth, the best assumption is to make no assumptions.
That’s according to Wahpeton High School Principal Ned Clooten. Thursday, Sept. 12 marked a year since the Food and Drug Administration began calling teenage e-cigarette use an epidemic.
“I don’t think kids realize the damage they’re doing to themselves,” Clooten said. “We surveyed our senior class last year and found that about 50 percent admitted to regularly using e-cigarettes.”
There is no “normal demographic” when it comes to student e-cigarette users, Clooten said. It’s a situation that is cutting across all backgrounds, concerning health professionals and political leaders.
“We can’t allow people to get sick,” President Donald Trump said Wednesday, Sept. 11. “And we can’t have our kids be so affected.”
A ban on the sale of most flavored e-cigarettes was announced Wednesday. The Food and Drug Administration will outline a plan to remove flavored e-cigarettes and nicotine pods from the market, the New York Times reported.
Flavoring is a leading factor in e-cigarette use among youth, Ariel Johnson said. Johnson, community prevention coordinator with the Richland County Health Department, said flavoring often conceals higher than expected amounts of nicotine youth are exposed to.
“We’ve been getting the calls from parents and from the youth themselves,” Johnson said. “They do want to quit. There is a scare out there.”
People seeking to quit e-cigarettes often tell Johnson they were unaware the products even contained nicotine.
“It’s a prompt time to talk about this. We want to educate people on what addiction looks like,” she said.
Johnson and representatives of the Project YES Coalition will be attending Wahpeton High School’s Friday, Sept. 13 homecoming game. The coalition seeks to prevent underage substance abuse, whether it’s involving alcohol, narcotics or any type of smoking.
“We do know that during homecoming, there is a high risk of underage alcohol consumption,” Johnson said. “Parents are the number one influence for youth.”
The proposed e-cigarette ban has received negative feedback from trade organizations.
“More than two million Americans have died from cigarette smoking-related illnesses over the last five years,” the Vapor Technology Association stated.
There is little conclusive research on the long-term safety of using leading e-cigarette Juul or other devises, the New York Times reported. The paper confirmed Juul pods have a higher level of nicotine than cigarettes.
Juul said it would comply with a ban on most e-cigarette flavors.
“We strongly agree with the need for aggressive category-wide action on flavored products,” said spokesman Ted Kwong.
North Dakota state Rep. Alisa Mitskog, D-District 25, said she strongly supports an e-cigarette ban. In fact, she had proposed a ban on flavored nicotine when the North Dakota Legislature met earlier in 2019.
“It was met with skepticism and resistance,” Mitskog said. “I worked with experts and tried to convey concern over vaping and the potential addiction to nicotine for a new generation of young people.”
The federal government must be part of the solution, Mitskog said. Doing so will prevent further deaths and serious respiratory injuries.
Like Johnson and Clooten, Mitskog has heard the usual claims.
“This is a product that they thought was a safer alternative,” she said. “We’re finding quite the opposite. The quick injury and damage to young people’s lungs is something we’ve never seen before.”