State officials call vaping ‘big tobacco 2.0’ 

  • Officials from Breathe New Hampshire show examples of what e-juice looks like during a forum at ConVal on Thursday, June 14, 2018.   Courtesy photo—

  • Officials from Breathe New Hampshire showed examples of  JUUL brand e-cigarettes and some cartridges during a presentation at ConVal on Thursday. Courtesy photo

  • Officials from Breathe New Hampshire discuss vaping during a presentation at ConVal on Thursday, June 14, 2018.   Courtesy photo—

  • Courtesy Photo Wikimedia Commons—

Monadnock Ledger-Transcript
Published: 6/19/2018 5:06:08 PM

A nationwide study had a piece of good and bad news: teen tobacco use has gone down over the years, but e-cigarette use is on the rise.

“The (cigarette) smoking rates have gone down as we would expect because of years and years of public health, but again the popularity (of e-cigarettes) with youth, the trajectory keeps going up,” Alyssa Thompson, director of programs at Breathe New Hampshire, said after a presentation titled “Vaping Unveiled: What Everyone Needs to Know” at ConVal Thursday.

After the presentation, Thompson said, “vaping is sort of that next big tobacco 2.0.”

Thompson said vaping is one of the fastest growing, unregulated industries in the country. Between 2008 and 2017, the estimated sales of e-cigarettes worldwide was up $110 billion. Despite the industry’s rapid growth, Thompson said the Food and Drug Administration, or FDA, regulations regarding vaping are on hold.

“It’s the wild, wild west essentially,” she said about products and flavoring.

Breathe New Hampshire in collaboration with the Monadnock Community Hospital brought the presentation to the school, which addressed the impacts of vaping and nicotine addiction, especially among youth.

Thompson said public awareness needs to be raised in order to prevent “the next generation from lung disease.”

A Youth Risk Behavior Survey, also known as YRBS, showed that younger students – more than 70 percent – assumed e-juice was just flavoring, Kim Coronis, policy and program manager at Breathe New Hampshire, said during the presentation. Coronis said as students get older that percentage goes down, with 50 percent of students reporting that they think e-juice is just flavoring.

Thompson said there’s a “huge misconception” with youth who think it’s just flavoring and that there’s no nicotine component.

“There’s a perception that I’m not smoking, it’s better than smoking, you know it’s just vapor, there’s nothing in it it’s just these fun flavors that I get to enjoy,” she said.

Thompson said parents can fall into the trap where they believe the content inside a vape is harmless juice. She said some parents are even buying vaping devices for their children.

“Most of the devices on the market do contain nicotine and that is highly addictive,” she warned, adding that something called a JUUL pod can contain nicotine levels equivalent to a pack of cigarettes.

She said they know the effects of smoking cigarettes through years of research, which is the leading cause of preventable death in the United States. The effects of e-cigarette use is less clear.

“So this generation now, these young adults and these teens that are vaping, are the guinea pigs,” she said. “... What are some of the things that are going to come out of this going to look like? Well we might not know for several years.”

Experts do know that smoking e-cigarettes can lead to a condition known as popcorn lung, which damages the smallest airways in the lungs and can cause shortness of breath. The condition can be caused by breathing in a chemical that is used to flavor microwave popcorn.

Thompson said this school year has been particularly challenging for schools across the state in regards to e-cigarette use.

“[Schools] may have had a handful of cases in the past year or two where they caught students vaping and now it’s like a weekly occurrence,” Thompson said.

Steve Bartsch, dean of students at ConVal, said this past school year, the school saw more vaping instances than ever before. During the 2017-18 school year, school officials saw 26 vaping-related instances. The previous school year, they saw eight. Bartsch said if a student has an e-cigarette device at school, officials will confiscate the item and issue a one-day suspension.

A 2015 YRBS survey showed that 25 percent of New Hampshire students in grades 9 through 12 reported having used an e-cigarette within the last 30 days, which was more than twice the national average. Coronis said a 2017 survey showed more than 40 percent of students in the state reported they had used an e-cigarette at least once in their lifetime.

Shawn King, a ConVal school counselor, said she hasn’t personally seen an increase in e-cigarette use in school, but did know there was an uptick in disciplinary action this school year.

“I definitely know it’s an issue,” King said about e-cigarette use.

King said flyers were put up to drum up interest for the presentation on Thursday. She said many of those flyers were either ripped down or vandalized with the letters “VN,” which stands for Vape Nation.

“I think we hit a nerve,” she said about the forum.

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