Written by Jenna Flynn
We are constantly seeing information in the news about e-cigarettes. There are new designs, colors, and methods of use coming out all the time. How do we know what is fact versus fiction?
Have you seen these claims?
- E-cigarettes are a great alternative to regular cigarettes. (NOPE!)
- It’s safe for teens to use e-cigarettes. (NO WAY!)
- The vapor is just water so it’s harmless, right? (WRONG!)
An electronic nicotine delivery system (ENDS), better known as an e-cigarette, is a battery-powered device that releases vaporized nicotine or non-nicotine solutions. The user inhales this solution (known as e-liquid or vape juice), producing the sensation of inhaling tobacco smoke.
Some people wonder why an ENDS is considered a tobacco product when tobacco isn’t used. This is because nicotine is derived from tobacco.
While there is much we DON’T know when it comes to using ENDS (i.e., vaping), there is a lot that we DO know. Below are 5 facts about e-cigarettes that parents, teachers, and others in Marathon County should understand.
FACT #1: E-liquid can contain highly concentrated amounts of nicotine.
The nicotine delivered through e-cigarettes can affect the developing adolescent brain, specific to attention and learning. Some containers of e-liquid can have the equivalent amount of nicotine as seven packs of cigarettes.
Dual usage of other tobacco products (such as cigarettes and smokeless tobacco or chew) is cause for concern. In fact, three out of five high school smokers also use e-cigarettes.
E-cigarettes have not been a proven cessation device; there is further research that needs to be done before that claim can be substantiated. What IS known is that ENDS should not be in the hands of youth.
FACT #2: E-liquid is NOT just water vapor.
There is a common misconception that e-liquid is simply water vapor and therefore is harmless. In reality, we don’t know what the long-term effects from usage will be. What is known is that e-liquid commonly contains a flavoring known as diacetyl, a chemical linked to lung diseases. Similar to traditional cigarettes, e-liquid has been found to contain benzene, among other heavy metals, which is found in car exhaust. What is concerning about this information is that ENDS and e-liquid are not currently regulated by the government, meaning there is really no way to tell what is in these products.
FACT #3: E-cigarettes have hit home in Wisconsin and Marathon County.
What is alarming about these products is that they are the most commonly used tobacco product among teens across the nation. In Wisconsin, 13% of high school students currently use e-cigarettes. Four out of 10 public school districts in Marathon County asked about ENDS in the most recent youth risk behavior survey, and 6.5% of high school students at these four schools reported trying ENDS.
FACT #4: Flavors & designs are attractive to youth.
The designs and flavors that are available for consumers are truly shocking. While adults might be interested in fruity flavors and sleek designs, youth certainly are.
In Wisconsin, about 9 out of 10 youth wouldn’t try an e-cigarette if it didn’t have any flavor (source). But the variety of flavors for these harmful nicotine devices is infinite . . . You can find anything from cotton candy and bubble gum to chocolate and blueberry. There is a law in place that disallows cigarettes to be flavored like this, but e-juice is not included in this law.
You might have heard about the most popular e-cigarette in the news or on social media: JUUL. It’s attractive to youth because it allows the user to discreetly use and hide the device, as it looks like a USB drive — yet one more thing parents and teachers need to be on the lookout for.
FACT #5: Prevention & cessation resources are available.
If there are users who are interested in no longer using ENDS, they can call the Wisconsin Tobacco Quit Line at 800-QUIT NOW (800-784-8669).
Parents and others working with youth can download and print the surgeon general’s tip sheet: “Talk with Your Teen About E-Cigarettes” or visit Tobacco Is Changing to get more information about other tobacco products.
If interested in learning more about local initiatives, please visit Central Wisconsin Tobacco Free Coalition.
Public Health Educator | Marathon County Health Department
Tobacco Control Coordinator | Central Wisconsin Tobacco Free Coalition
Jenna Flynn is a Public Health Educator with the Marathon County Health Department and serves as the Tobacco Control Coordinator for the Central Wisconsin Tobacco Free Coalition. Jenna holds a bachelor’s degree in Sociology and a master’s degree in Public Health. She grew up in Northern Wisconsin and is proud to serve the central region. In her free time, Jenna enjoys coaching and playing volleyball, cooking, and participating in the many outdoor activities that Wisconsin has to offer. Email Jenna Flynn.
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