TSET tackles e-cigarette use by state’s youth
Use of e-cigarettes among youth is increasing, and the Oklahoma Tobacco Settlement Endowment Trust (TSET) is leading the way in combating the trend with resources for parents, teachers and the public on the dangers of e-cigarette use.
E-cigarette use among youth in middle school and high school increased at an alarming rate nationally, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. The FDA estimated 1.3 million more students used e-cigarettes in 2018 compared to 2017. Current e-cigarette use among high school students increased from 11.7 percent in 2017 to 20.8 percent in 2018, according to National Youth Tobacco Survey data.
TSET found a similar trend in Oklahoma.
Sheri Ripley, assistant coordinator for the TSET Healthy Living Program serving Lincoln County, has been working with local school districts to educate teachers and administrators about youth using e-cigarettes. The TSET Healthy Living Program works with schools, businesses, city government and community organizations to provide information and assistance in creating healthy, tobacco-free environments.
“Very few teachers or administrators that I have talked with have heard about vape devices or e-cigarettes,” Ripley said. “They were shocked when they learned about the level of accessibility their students have to these products.”
The JUUL e-cigarette device features a sleek design, similar to a USB flash drive, and contains the nicotine equivalent of an entire pack of cigarettes. Students are using them at school during breaks and lunchtime, often with one student keeping an eye out for teachers while others vape, Ripley said.
“Oftentimes, students are not aware that these products contain nicotine and have not been informed of the dangers associated with a nicotine addiction,” Ripley said.
TSET programs and research are making a major impact statewide and nationally. In addition to its highly successful Tobacco Stops With Me campaign, TSET funds research grants to support nationally funded tobacco control researchers to reduce Oklahoma’s greatest preventable cause of premature death and disability — tobacco use.
One TSET-funded researcher is helping inform the national conversation on flavors and e-cigarettes.
Dr. Ted Wagener, director of tobacco regulatory science research at the TSET-funded Oklahoma Tobacco Research Center at the Stephenson Cancer Center, is one of only a handful of researchers focusing on evaluating the pharmacological and behavioral use patterns of non-cigarette tobacco products, such as electronic cigarettes.
Wagener has several research studies funded by the FDA, including research on flavors and use of vaping devices such as JUUL, and he was one of few researchers to have early data about how young people are using JUUL devices.
“The FDA wants to know the answers to the questions we are asking and researching,” Wagener said. “We realized JUUL was going to be a big thing about two years ago when we doing survey research at Oklahoma State University. Kids were telling us they weren’t vaping, but they would be carrying JUUL devices. To them, it was two different things.”
In November, FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb, M.D., proposed new steps to protect youth by preventing access to flavored tobacco products and banning menthol in cigarettes. TSET sees this as an important message and a significant step in protecting youth from exposure to nicotine. The outcome of the FDA’s efforts is still evolving; however, one thing is known: e-cigarettes contain nicotine, and nicotine is not good for the developing brain. A public hearing will be held on Dec. 5 for the proposed rules, and the FDA will continue seeking public comment through Jan. 2.
“We need to keep kids away from using nicotine altogether,” said Wagener. “Kids need to understand the risk of becoming addicted, and they need to understand that these flavors have nicotine in them. Using nicotine in this form may make it easier to use nicotine in all forms.”
Exposing the developing brain to nicotine physically changes the brain. That’s why the younger a person starts to use products that contain nicotine, the more addicted they get and the harder it is to stop.
Kids are still developing the brain structures that control:
• Pleasure seeking.
• Susceptibility to peer pressure.
“These devices are especially attractive to youth and use this to ramp up profits and perpetuate the cycle of addiction,” said Michelle Stephens, a member of the TSET board of directors, “Kids are getting creative in how they obtain and use these devices and there are resources available at Tobacco Stops With Me to help halt this epidemic.”
“By familiarizing themselves with not only the packaging, flavors and designs of tobacco and vaping products but with the dangers associated with nicotine addiction, parents are helping prevent Oklahoma kids from being addicted to tobacco — and suffering from the impact of the addiction on their health and wallets,” Stephens said.
Tobacco Stops With Me is TSET’s public intervention campaign that educates the public about the negative effects and impact of tobacco to ultimately improve the health and quality of life and educates Oklahomans on the harms of flavored tobacco products.
TSET was created by voters in 2000 to ensure that majority of payments from the Master Settlement Agreement awarded from major tobacco companies would be spent on efforts to reduce the toll of tobacco in Oklahoma, and improve health. Annual settlement payments are deposited in the TSET endowment, and only the earnings are used for grants and programs. An appointed board of directors representing each congressional district, oversees the expenditure of earnings.
Check out StopsWith Me.com for helpful tips and information.
According to the FDA, vapes, vaporizers, vape pens, hookah pens, electronic cigarettes (e-cigarettes or e-cigs) and e-pipes are some of the many terms used to describe noncombustible electronic nicotine delivery systems. These products use an e-liquid that may contain nicotine as well as varying compositions of flavorings, propylene glycol, vegetable glycerin, and other ingredients. The liquid is heated to create an aerosol that the user inhales. Vaping products and flavored tobacco help mask harsh tobacco flavor, making it easier to use these deadly products. With high levels of nicotine and even higher possibilities of addiction, cigars, cigarillos, hookah, e-cigarettes, vape pens, JUULs and other vapor products pose incredible dangers to kids.