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Vaping epidemic hits home

Manufacturers are creating devices for vaping directed at youth, like sweatshirt ties, markers, pens, thumb drives, etc., that make getting caught vaping in class or on campus more difficult. Images contributed

Because vaping among teens has become an epidemic countywide, and certainly is a problem for Atascadero youth, an educational presentation for parents and students on the effects of vaping was held at the Middle school on Wednesday, Feb. 13 from 5:30 to 6:30 pm in the gym. The goal was to inform those who attended about the vaping devices now available and targeted toward teens, as well as the dangers associated with the new form of smoking.

What originated as a smoking cessation aid has quickly become a popular — and addictive — product in its own right. Most teens would never think of smoking cigarettes; many have grown up seeing anti-tobacco ads, but vaping is a whole other issue. Vaping, like smoking cigarettes, is illegal for anyone under 18, but many young people, even as young as junior high students, vape.

Teens hear that vaping is not as bad for their health as smoking cigarettes, and think there is no harm in vaping. According to many press reports, recent studies found that kids who vaped (but were not previously smokers) were more than four times as likely to move away from the perception of cigarettes posing a great risk to their health. Those studies, and many others like it, have shown that teens who vape are more likely to start smoking cigarettes.

Eleven percent of high school seniors, eight percent of tenth-graders, and three and a half percent of eighth-graders reported vaping in a one month period, according to a national survey released from the University of Michigan in 2018.

Vaping is the act of inhaling and exhaling the vapor produced by the heated nicotine liquid of an electronic cigarette (e-cigarette), vape pen, or personal vaporizer. Although vaping companies emphatically deny that they are marketing to young people, features in their advertising show youthful images and colors, animation, actors who appear to be under 21, and suggestions that vaping makes people happier and improves their social status. The vaping liquid usually has nicotine and flavoring in it, and other chemical additives.

Many ask, “What is in the vaping liquid?” According to web sources, 66.0 percent of surveyed users say just flavoring; 13.7 percent of users don’t know; 13.2 percent of users say nicotine; 5.8 percent say marijuana; and 1.3 percent of users say “other.” Manufacturers don’t have to report e-cigarette ingredients, so users don’t know what’s actually in them. E-cigarettes are very popular with young people. Their use has grown dramatically in the last five years. Today, more high school students use e-cigarettes than regular cigarettes. The use of e-cigarettes is higher among high school students than adults.

The nicotine in e-cigarettes, and regular cigarettes, is highly addictive. E-cigarettes that contain nicotine, which comes from tobacco, are considered tobacco products. Harmful metals and cancer-causing chemicals are present in many e-cigarettes, and vaping often causes airway resistance. The negative effects from exposure to electronic cigarettes are causing respiratory problems, gastrointestinal conditions, heart problems, nicotine poisoning, and injury caused by e-cigarette battery explosions.

Although, some places are tightening restrictions locally to limit how kids can get their hands on these devices, they can still go to a website, click a button that says they are at least 21 years old, and purchase online. The majority of adolescents are purchasing vaping merchandise from the Internet.

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