Yes! While the reduction in overall smoking rates in our community are very encouraging, the interest shown in e-cigarettes and vaping is very concerning, particularly among our youth. There is a real marketing press on to make “vaping” cool or portraying it as “less bad” and kids are getting swept up into that marketing. It is eroding the progress our youth have made in recent years to embrace healthier lifestyles by avoiding tobacco use. NMC has taken a stand in support of better health for all by including e-cigarettes in our Smoke Free Campus policy.
Here in Franklin County, our own youth are taking a stand against e-cigarettes. I have been very impressed by a group of students in Enosburg who have taken on this challenge. The Enosburg Falls High School OVX (Our Voices Xposed) students have worked within their school with their peers and they have gone beyond to have an impact on their community and the entire state. They have created signs warning of the dangers of e-cigarettes that were posted in prominent locations in town (including on the lawn of the building in Enosburg which houses Northwestern Pediatrics, Franklin County Home Health Agency, and Northwestern Physical Therapy). Recently, the students, and their banners, traveled to Montpelier to engage with legislators. Here is an overview of the talking points they used in their testimony at the Statehouse:
- What we’re learning about e-cigarettes is alarming us, especially when it comes to our peers and our younger siblings. Nationally, E-cigarette use among high schoolers has increased 9-fold in 3 years.
- Vermont’s 2015 Youth Risk Behavior Survey shows 30% of High Schoolers have ever used e-vapor products and 15% used them on one or more of the past 30 days. That is more than the 11% who used cigarettes in the past 30 days.
- E-cigarette products are impacting very young children. There has been a 215% increase in monthly e-cigarette exposure calls to poison centers, 51% involving children under age 6.
- Early research is demonstrating that youth use could put them at increased risk for nicotine addiction, impact their brain development and increase their intentions to smoke cigarettes.
- These products seem as though they are designed to recruit young users – they come in thousands of flavors that appeal to youth including cotton candy, peanut butter cup, popcorn, and rainbow candy. The advertisements are both appealing to kids and unregulated (can be on TV) just like cigarettes once were.
- They are NOT approved aids to help people quit. In fact, studies are showing that 3 in 4 smokers are using both cigarettes and e-cigarettes.
- It is not harmless water vapor that is emitted. It is an aerosol that contains known cancer-causing agents, heavy metals and propylene glycol, to name a few.
The students who testified said they wanted “to make sure youth are protected from yet another product that is addictive or could increase our chances of using another deadly product like cigarettes or chew.” They asked the legislators to “help protect us from these products. We may not know what the long term effects of e-cigarettes are, but we know enough to know they are not ok for youth … We don’t want to be exposed to heavy metals and cancer causing agents when we’re in public spaces, in cars or at work.”
What tremendous work and what a powerful message from these young people. Enosburg, Franklin County, and Vermont should be proud of these youth. We should also listen to them and follow their lead! We need to stop this drive to re-glamorize tobacco use. We have made such progress in reducing the costly health impacts of tobacco by helping individuals quit and in preventing people from experimenting with cigarettes and becoming addicted to nicotine. We cannot let a fancy new product in kid-enticing flavors with massive advertising budgets reverse those steps to better health and lower total healthcare costs. Talk to your family to make sure they understand the dangers of e-cigarettes. Tell merchants where you shop that products like that do not need to be in our community. Reach out to your elected officials and encourage them to put appropriate controls on e-cigarettes. Don’t let our health, especially the health of our youth, go up in smoke – or in heavy metal laced vapor!
— Jill Berry Bowen, NMC’s Chief Executive Officer