With use of vaping products on the rise among teenagers, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration this month announced restrictions on sales of certain flavored e-cigarettes just as a major manufacturer …
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By Randall Rigsbee
News + Record Staff
With use of vaping products on the rise among teenagers, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration this month announced restrictions on sales of certain flavored e-cigarettes just as a major manufacturer of e-cigarette products announced it would stop selling certain products.
Use of tobacco products and e-cigarettes among teenagers continues to be a “major health concern within our community,” said Anna Stormzand, Health Promotion Coordinator with the Chatham County Public Health Department.
Juul Labs, which has more than 70 percent of the e-cigarette market in the United States, announced this month that it would stop selling most of its flavored e-cigarette pods in retail stores and would discontinue social media promotions of its products.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is also seeking to ban menthol cigarettes as well as flavored cigars.
Citing the 2017 Youth Risk Behavior Survey (YRBS), a self-report survey that middle and high school students complete across the country, Stormzand noted that among Chatham County high school students, 46 percent reported ever using electronic vapor products and 22.4 percent report currently using electronic vapor products (at least once within the last 30 days).
“These percentages are in contrast to students smoking traditional cigarettes,” Stormzand said.
Among Chatham County high school students, 13.6 percent also reported currently smoking cigarettes (at least once within the last 30 days).
“We are very concerned about this renormalization of smoking that we are seeing among our middle and high school students, as well as young adults, and the potential electronic vapor products like JUULs have to addict another generation to nicotine and tobacco products,” Stormzand said.
New restrictions by the FDA coincide with the release of new data indicating e-cigarette use by high school students increased 78 percent from 2017 to 2018.
The new data from the National Youth Tobacco Survey, was reported this month in the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.
“If the policy changes that we have outlined don’t reverse this epidemic, and if the manufacturers don’t do their part to help advance this cause, I’ll explore additional actions,” FDA commissioner Scott Gottlieb said in a statement.
Data from a 2016 survey of 1,930 Chatham County students in grades 6 through 12 showed that 19.7 percent reported using electronic vaping products, said George Gregor-Holt, Community Outreach Coordinator with the non-profit organization Chatham Drug Free.
Part of the appeal of the e-cigarette products for young consumers is the variety of flavors.
“The electronic vapor product industry offers a myriad of flavors to enhance the vaping experience,” Gregor-Holt said. “These flavors, like bubble gum, cotton candy, mint, cucumber, creme and other sweet fruit flavors appeal to underage consumers and drive much of the sales of electronic vaping devices.
“The removal of these flavors hopefully will make the product less attractive to underage youth and reduce usage in that population,” Gregor-Holt said.
“In addition, the aerosol created by the burning of these flavor additives has not been fully researched as to their safety and indeed there is growing evidence that the aerosol created by vaping is harmful to the user and those around him/her,” Gregor-Holt said.
Another concern is the availability of electronic cigarettes. A consumer must be 18 years of age to purchase any electronic vaping product, but “unfortunately, not all sales clerks are trained in the importance of checking identification and there is unwitting, unknowing and sometimes intentional underage sales,” Gregor-Holt said. “Owners of businesses that sell tobacco products including vape products should instruct their clerks to check identification of everyone who wishes to purchase electronic vape or other tobacco products regardless of their age appearance.”
Vaping products were often introduced as a safer alternative to traditional tobacco products or as a means of quitting traditional tobacco use.
“There is a growing body of evidence that neither of those claims are true,” Gregor-Holt said. “Even the term vaping, in which the device produces a harmless ‘vapor,’ is misleading.”
According the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the aerosol produced by electronic vaping devices “contains harmful and potentially harmful chemicals, including nicotine; ultrafine particles that can be inhaled deep into the lungs; flavoring such diacetyl, a chemical linked to a serious lung disease; volatile organic compounds such as benzene, which is found in car exhaust; and heavy metals, such as nickel, tin, and lead.”
Another safety concern is that the batteries used to heat nicotine in vaping devises have been known to explode or cause fires, Gregor-Holt noted.
Regardless of restrictions placed on the products, help is available for anyone who wants to quit using tobacco or vaping products, Stormzand said.
Anyone, including youth, can call 1-800 QUIT NOW or visit www.quitlinenc.com to get free cessation counseling for all types of tobacco, including e-cigarette products like JUULs.