Stu­dent users in state grew in 2 years

The Norwalk Hour - - FRONT PAGE - By Macken­zie Rigg

The num­ber of Con­necti­cut high school stu­dents who used va­p­ing prod­ucts, such as e-cig­a­rettes, dou­bled from 2015 to 2017, ac­cord­ing to a new study re­leased by the state De­part­ment of Pub­lic Health.

Over­all, 14.7 per­cent of high school stu­dents re­ported “cur­rently” va­p­ing in 2017, com­pared to 7.2 per­cent in 2015. In con­trast, 3.5 per­cent of high school­ers re­ported cur­rently smok­ing tra­di­tional cig­a­rettes in 2017.

DPH com­piled the 2017 re­port

“Based on mis­lead­ing claims about e-cig­a­rettes, many teens be­lieve they are try­ing a ‘safe’ prod­uct.” Dr. Raul Pino, DPH com­mis­sioner

us­ing data col­lected from March to June 2017. The state de­fines “cur­rent use” as hav­ing used a prod­uct at least once in 30 days.

“These re­sults are es­pe­cially trou­bling be­cause youth are gen­er­ally un­aware of the pres­ence and level of nicotine in their de­vices and can be­come ad­dicted with only a few puffs,” said DPH Com­mis­sioner Dr. Raul Pino in a state­ment. “Although the cig­a­rette smok­ing rate con­tin­ues to de­cline among this age group, va­p­ing con­tin­ues to in­crease. Based on mis­lead­ing claims about eci­garettes, many teens be­lieve they are try­ing a ‘safe’ prod­uct.”

The Food and Drug Ad­min­is­tra­tion (FDA) re­cently la­beled youth e-cig­a­rette use an epi­demic and put the man­u­fac­tur­ers on no­tice about po­ten­tial ac­tions they may take in or­der to re­duce youth ac­cess and use.

FDA Com­mis­sioner Dr. Scott Got­tlieb said in a Septem­ber state­ment that eci­garettes “have be­come an al­most ubiq­ui­tous and dan­ger­ous trend among teens.”

“The dis­turb­ing and ac­cel­er­at­ing tra­jec­tory of use we’re see­ing in youth, and the re­sult­ing path to ad­dic­tion, must end,” he said. “It’s sim­ply not tol­er­a­ble.”

Although some pre­lim­i­nary stud­ies have in­di­cated that e-cig­a­rettes may be safer than com­bustible cig­a­rettes, the Sur­geon Gen­eral has con­cluded that

nicotine poses a dan­ger to youth, and its use in any form by youth is un­safe, ac­cord­ing to the DPH study.

“The is­sue with e-cigs, be­cause they have ex­ploded on the mar­ket over the last five or so years, com­pared to reg­u­lar cig­a­rettes which have decades of ev­i­dence­based data, we have been limited un­til very re­cently in know­ing what the right ap­proach should be,” said Dr. Me­hul Dalal, chronic disease direc­tor at DPH.

Dalal said that many na­tional groups, in­clud­ing the In­sti­tute of Medicine and the Amer­i­can Med­i­cal As­so­ci­a­tion, have sup­ported rais­ing the le­gal age to pur­chase to­bacco prod­ucts from 18 to 21. State pub­lic health of­fi­cials are ac­tively dis­cussing that rec­om­men­da­tion, with the next leg­isla­tive ses­sion about three months away.

A bill to raise the age made it through the Pub­lic Health Com­mit­tee, but was never voted on dur­ing the last ses­sion, which ended in May.

The Cen­ters for Disease Con­trol and Preven­tion also has rec­om­mended ed­u­cat­ing par­ents and school of­fi­cials about the risks of va­p­ing and nicotine to help cur­tail use. Dalal said state of­fi­cials plan to fol­low that rec­om­men­da­tion.

One pop­u­lar brand of e-cig­a­rettes, JUUL, con­tains the same amount of nicotine in one pod as a pack of cig­a­rettes, and many teens re­port that they use one pod each day. These de­vices are shaped like a USB drive and are eas­ily con­cealed, and teach­ers have re­ported use in the class­room while class is in ses­sion, ac­cord­ing to DPH.

Ac­cord­ing to the DPH study, those who vaped said they started be­cause a friend or fam­ily did. The most pop­u­lar fla­vors were fruit, mint, and men­thol. More than half of the youth also re­ported that they used their elec­tronic de­vices for other sub­stances, such as mar­i­juana, THC or hash oil, or THC wax.

“Pre­vent­ing the ini­ti­a­tion of to­bacco use al­to­gether, ed­u­cat­ing chil­dren and young adults on the dan­gers of (e-cig­a­rettes), and re­duc­ing ex­po­sure to se­cond­hand smoke and aerosol are all very im­por­tant for pro­tect­ing chil­dren’s health,” Pino said.

Tom Reel / San An­to­nio Ex­press-News

The num­ber of Con­necti­cut high school stu­dents who used va­p­ing prod­ucts, such as e-cig­a­rettes, dou­bled from 2015 to 2017, ac­cord­ing to a new study re­leased by the state De­part­ment of Pub­lic Health.

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