Department of Health warns against e-cigarette usage
Representative explains dangers of vaping at town meeting
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.”