The message to young people should be as emphatic and clear as their lungs ought to be — vaping is unhealthy. And dangerous.
Initially considered an option to help wean smokers off cigarettes, vaping or e-cigarettes instead has opened up a whole new market — teens and even younger children — for unscrupulous manufacturers, such as Juul. They have done this by pushing flavors such as bubble gum and cotton candy and promoting the devices on social media where young people congregate.
The scene is reminiscent of Big Tobacco and Joe Camel, and the same pushback against the cancer-causing industry has to happen now with the latest iteration of vaping.
So far 12 deaths in this country are attributed to vaping and there’s been a multi-state outbreak of several hundred with lung disease connected to vaping. Connecticut has not had any deaths, yet, but has a reported about a dozen cases of illness.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention earlier this month announced it would investigate the lung disease outbreaks. While the numbers are low in comparison to deaths and injuries related to gun violence, the CDC attention is nonetheless welcome.
E-cigarettes heat a liquid that can contain nicotine (more than in a cigarette), THC, cannabinoid oils and possibly other chemicals to form a vapor which is inhaled.
Our concern is with the young people who are led by the advertising to consider vaping cool and harmless. Vaping is neither.
Use among middle and high school students grew an astonishing 78 percent in one year, 2017 to 2018, according to the Federal Drug Administration, which estimates 3.7 million young users.
Vaping devices, because of their small size and odorless or scented smoke, are difficult to detect in schools.
Some schools have closed off all but a few bathrooms to control vaping. But in places such as New Milford High School, students rightly complained that all were being punished to stop the transgressions of a few and the school relented.
Some districts have incurred substantial expenses to install vapor-detecting devices in hallways. For Ridgefield, for example, each sensor at the high school cost $995 plus a $495 software set-up fee.
Aside from detection efforts in the schools, there are movements at the state and federal level to ban flavors and limit who can buy the e-cigarettes.
The Connecticut General Assembly is likely to consider a such a ban in the next session, said state Rep. Jonathan Steinberg, D-Westport, co-chair of the Public Health Committee. It failed this year to include e-cigarettes in raising the age from 18 to 21 to buy cigarettes, a law that goes into effect on Tuesday.
The federal Food and Drug Administration is considering a proposal to remove flavored e-cigarettes from the market. States, such as New York and Michigan, didn’t wait and enacted their own bans.
All of this movement is good, albeit slow. The solution in the interim is to educate young people on the dangers. It took generations for the perils of tobacco use to finally sink in. We should learn from that mistake and act quickly.