Back to School – Hidden Dangers

It’s back to school with all of the kids excited about catching up with old friends and making new ones. School projects, events and sports are just a few of the things that come to mind during this fall type weather and getting back into the full swing of things. But one of those things to watch out for is the high rate of our youth that are vaping, and starting as early as middle school age.

E-cigarettes are the most commonly used tobacco product among Montana teens. More than half of Montana High school students have tried e-cigarettes or vaping and one in three currently vape on a daily basis.

E-cigarettes are called a lot of things, such as vapes, mods, e-hookahs, vape pens, tank systems and JUULS. They heat a liquid into an aerosol (not into vapor) that is inhaled into the user’s lungs. This aerosol is not harmless water. What is inhaled and exhaled from the device contains harmful substances such as nicotine or ultra-fine particles that can be inhaled into the lungs. Flavorings known as diacetyl are chemicals linked to a serious lung disease. Cancer causing chemicals and heavy metals such as nickel, tin and lead are also found in vaping devices.

Nicotine is addictive and in any form, unsafe for the development of the youth brain. Nicotine can also prime the brain for addiction to other drugs in the future.

But let’s bring this closer to home. According to the 2021 Youth Risk Behavior Survey (YRBS) 26% of students in Sidney Middle School have tried vaping, 55% of Sidney High School students have tried vaping and 33% are current users. 73% got or bought their vape from a friend, family member or someone else. 58% of those have tried to quit.

Since the FDA placed flavor restrictions on pod-based vaping products, such as JUUL, disposable products like Puff Bar have increased in popularity. Disposable vape use, among current high school users increased by 1000% during 2019-2020.

Big Tobacco targets kids to replace the 1200 tobacco users who die each day due to a tobacco related illness. Big Tobacco spends $27.7 million each year in Montana alone, promoting their products. E-cigarettes (or vapes) come in over 15,500 different flavors like Cotton Candy, Skittles and Unicorn Puke. 96% of youth started vaping with a flavored product.

All forms of vaping products are advertised using celebrity endorsements, cartoon characters, sports, event sponsorships and social media. The Master Settlement Agreement of 1988 restricted tobacco from being advertised on TV, sports, movies, magazine and they could no longer use cartoon characters as mascots, but as of now, vaping products are not falling under these guidelines.

The new generation of vape products like JUUL, have a sleek, high-tech design and are easy to conceal. Big tobacco companies have come up with vaping products that are disguised in the draw strings on the hood of a sweatshirt or to look like smart watches. These are just a few of the many vaping devices made to look like everyday items. You may even want to google them so you can identify a hidden vape in your home.

We all enjoy watching our youth have new and exciting life changing experiences during these last few years of middle, high school and even on to college, but let’s make sure those years aren’t hindered by health problems and addiction brought on by Big Tobacco’s lust to make money at the expense of our children’s health.

Please feel free to call me if you have any questions at Richland County Health Department, 406-433-2207.


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