Depart­ment of Health warns against e-cig­a­rette us­age

Rep­re­sen­ta­tive ex­plains dan­gers of va­p­ing at town meet­ing

Maryland Independent - - News - By CHAR­LIE WRIGHT cwright@somd­

A rep­re­sen­ta­tive from the Charles County Depart­ment of Health de­liv­ered a brief­ing on va­p­ing at the In­dian Head town meet­ing on Mon­day, warn­ing res­i­dents about the po­ten­tial dan­gers of the smok­ing al­ter­na­tive.

To­bacco Pro­gram Man­ager Mary Beth Klick pre­sented “Va­p­ing: More Dan­ger­ous Than You Think” in an ef­fort to ed­u­cate the pub­lic about elec­tronic cig­a­rettes and sim­i­lar de­vices, of­fer­ing an open fo­rum for ques­tions and con­cerns. As the pop­u­lar­ity of cig­a­rettes dwin­dles, Klick is con­cerned va­p­ing has stepped in to fill the void.

“We’ve done an in­cred­i­ble job of de­creas­ing the amount of peo­ple who are smok­ing,” Klick said. “Peo­ple have quit, peo­ple are never start­ing, our use rates of cig­a­rettes and to­bacco are re­ally low. The prob­lem is … that’s a big money maker for the to­bacco in­dus­try, they came up with some­thing else.”

Va­p­ing in­volves in­hal­ing and ex­hal­ing wa­ter va­por from an elec­tronic de­vice us­ing sim­i­lar me­chan­ics to smok­ing a cig­a­rette. The va­por­izer heats the de­sired liq­uid, of­ten re­ferred to as e-juice or vape juice, and then users ac­cess the va­pors through the pipe ap­pa­ra­tus. The process is to­bacco-free and some­times nico­tine-free, but that doesn’t mean e-cig­a­rettes are bereft of harm­ful sub­stances.

“There are chem­i­cals in the e-juice that none of us would ever eat or drink,” Klick said. “Formalde­hyde, heavy me­tals like nickel. Ac­etalde­hyde, a chem­i­cal used in paint strip­pers. There is no strin­gent reg­u­la­tion on the e-juices, so no batch is ever the same.”

Klick ex­plained chil­dren in par­tic­u­lar are at­tracted to e-cig­a­rettes, as prod­ucts are mar­keted with kid-friendly fla­vors like Skit­tles, pop­corn and cot­ton candy. Fol­low­ing the state re­port on to­bacco us­age, Klick de­vel­oped a snap­shot of Charles County users. As of 2014, 23.1 per­cent of high school stu­dents and al­most 10 per­cent of mid­dle school­ers have tried an e-cig­a­rette in the last 30 days, she said.

The depart­ment is con­cerned that va­p­ing will lead to the use of harsher sub­stances, just as cig­a­rettes have done for decades. Klick cau­tioned par­ents that e-cig­a­rettes are just the start among chil­dren.

“It’s our new gate­way drug,” Klick said. “Smok­ing used to be the gate­way drug, be­cause if you took a risk and de­fied mom and dad ... then you were more will­ing to take a risk and try some­thing else. When we have mid­dle school­ers be­ing able to tell you and de­scribe what a va­por­izer is and how to mix the fla­vors and the nico­tine lev­els, we’ve got the be­gin­ning of an­other prob­lem.”

Coun­cil talks Charles County Rocks

On a lighter note, the town coun­cil has joined the re­cent in­ter­net craze of paint­ing rocks and hid­ing them in the com­mu­nity. Mem­bers of a pub­lic Face­book group called Charles County Rocks have been dis­tribut­ing ar­tis­ti­cally-de­signed stones in­scribed with kind mes­sages through­out the area for a few months, in­spir­ing In­dian Head Mayor Bran­don Paulin to get on board.

Paulin com­mis­sioned his mother to paint the In­dian Head seal on a rock, and ev­ery week­end the rock is placed some­where in town. So far, the stone has been hid­den at the Vil­lage Green Pavil­ion and Mat­tingly Park. Once dis­cov­ered, it can be re­turned to the Town Hall for an In­dian Head themed prize.

“Just a lit­tle gift bag with town stuff, pens and pen­cils and all that,” Paulin said. “If you see the rock, make sure you bring it to Town Hall. If you’re on Face­book, check out Charles County Rocks. It’s a neat lit­tle thing that’s go­ing on.”

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