Rise from the Ashes
E-cigarette use is on the rise for high school and middle school students
October 10, 2013
Electronic cigarette stores line Memorial Street. Recently they appeared around the kid’s neck that sits next to you in class.
Cigarettes are suppose to be bad, right? The percentage of U.S. middle and high school students who use electronic cigarettes, or e-cigarettes, more than doubled from 2011 to 2012 according to data published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
So what’s the deal?
E-cigs appeal to smokers because they’re advertised as a healthy alternative to smoking, free from tar and dangerous chemicals.
However, studies are beginning to surface the question: Just how healthy and chemical-free is this alternative? Many professionals worry about the effects and unknowns of e-cigs, and further worry about their popularity. For instance, in 2009, the FDA found toxic chemicals and carcinogens in ingredients used in these devices.
According to a study presented at the European Respiratory Society’s Annual Congress, electronic cigarettes help smokers wean off of regular cigarettes in a clinical trial.
Although e-cigs are supposed to be used to help smokers quit, 7.2 percent of high school students who have tried an electronic cigarette have never smoked an actual cigarette, according to the American Lung Association (ALA), and it’s even worse for middle schoolers with an alarming 20.3 percent of users never touching a tobacco cigarette.
Although electronic cigarettes do save your lungs from the tar and other chemicals produced by cigarettes, e-cig users are still inhaling nicotine and whatever unknown chemical compounds researchers have yet to discover. Nicotine is a highly addictive drug, and the fact that kids who aren’t addicted to cigarettes, are “vaping” could mean a nicotine addiction in the future.
Electronic cigarettes have been appealing because they lack the secondhand smoke of cigarettes; however, there is not ample data to support that. In fact, according to ALA, “Two other initial studies (by the FDA) have found formaldehyde, benzene and tobacco-specific nitrosamines (a carcinogen) coming from the secondhand smoke emissions from e-cigarettes.” E-cigs are enticing, flavored like candy and chocolate. Because they are marketed as a healthy alternative to cigarettes it is now acceptable to smoke in the bathroom or the parking lot. In fact, there is no legislation restricting the use of e-cigs for anyone, including children; or where they can be used, including schools. There is more to this story, which is usually the case.
This story has been updated to include links.
School Board approves ban on e-cigarettes
Part two of Spartan Post's investigative series on e-cigarettes
The Bixby School Board responded to the e-cigarette (e-cig) phenomenon with a new policy that forbids “simulated tobacco products” which are defined as products that imitate or mimic tobacco products. including, but not limited to cloves, bidis, kreteks, and vapor smoking with or without nicotine”.
Students have already received disciplinary action for carrying e-cigs. Junior Tristan Page said, “I thought there already was a rule about them.”
Assistant Superintendent Bryan Frazier explained, although it is mentioned in the handbook, which is approved by the school board, it was not technically school policy until now.
Frazier detailed that policies are made when an issue arises in the school that students and/or principals address. Then the superintendents address the issue with the school board. “There’s a hierarchy,” said Frazier.
Students have increasingly used vapor devices on campus. Frazier said, “Although some vapor devices don’t include nicotine,”Frazier justified that, “we can’t look at one and determine if it has nicotine, so they have to be banned.”
Frazier said that disciplinary actions are up to the principal at each school, and for e-cigs, the action taken would probably be the same as action taken for possessing any tobacco products.
Bixby Public Schools has addressed e-cigs possession on campus; however there currently isn’t a law in Oklahoma preventing minors from purchasing e-cigs.
The Oklahoma State Senate passed Senate Bill 802 on March 6 that would limit the minimum age to purchase e-cigs at 18, but the bill needed to be passed by the House before becoming law. Republican senator Rob Johnson from Yukon was the principal author of the bill. He said, “The simple fact is these are nicotine products, and we need to do what we can to keep children from using them.”
But on April 5, members of the House Public Health Committee voted to kill the bill, thus it never reached the House for voting, which is necessary for the bill to become a law. While Senate Bill 802 would ban e-cig sales to minors, it would also tax vapor products like e-cigs and cartridges as well as tobacco derived products like e-liquid and cartomizers containing nicotine. It would require e-cig retailers to obtain a license to sell tobacco products and make it a criminal offense to buy e-cigs online.
The debate about minors purchasing e-cigs is still a hot topic. The FDA is set to start regulating e-cigs as a tobacco product because the main ingredient, nicotine, is addictive.
E-cigarettes: A threat to youth
Third installment of an investigative series on e-cigarettes
Recently, studies have revealed the potential dangers of e-cigarettes. As logic would have it, these devices pose a danger especially to the youth. No legislature has outlawed them, and FDA does not oversee them. They appeal to young people because of their flavors and their lack of tobacco and harmful chemicals found in traditional cigarettes. E-cigarettes come in every imaginable flavor such as cheesecake, fruit flavors, alcohol flavors, candy flavors, etc.
The flavors are appealing, but what is ignored is the potential for dangerous chemicals in vapor devices.
Although vapor devices are available with no nicotine, if a teen decides to borrow a friend’s e-cigarettes, many times they will be exposed to nicotine. E-cigarettes may continue to be considered safer than a traditional cigarette because they are a new technology, but further research could show they are not better, just different than a traditional cigarette.
Vapor cigarette supporters assure the world that e-cigarettes are not only not dangerous, but also definitely not tempting to the youth; however research shows otherwise. According the the American Lung Association, use of e-cigarettes among 6-12 year olds increased from 1.1 percent to 2.1 percent from 2010 to 2011 and the amount students reporting to have used an e-cigarettes doubled.
Supporters also claim that e-cigarettes are not easily accessible enough to the youth. The Spartan Post staff put this to the test. Senior Jarad Reed, who is under 18, went undercover into a vapor store to see how easily accessible the purchase of these devices are to high school students.
The first obstacle was getting past the tough blocks on e-cigarettes websites for those under 18. For example, the site www.bluecigs.com sells e-cigarette merchandise by clever designers and the only obstacle for the under 18 crowd is a pop-up that asks if you are over 18. It was tough to figure out a way to get passed this, but upon putting our heads together, it was easy to click the button that said we were over 18. Any teen with a debit card can purchase e-cigarettes online.
But what if you don’t have a debit card number? Not to fear, your chances of buying an e-cigarettes are still high.
Reed and senior Makenzie King visited two vapor shops in Bixby, Bixby Vapor and Majestic Vapor, to see if they could purchase a vapor device. Upon arrival, they were dismayed to find a sign on the door that told them minors were not allowed; however, the forcefield on the door must have been disabled, because they were able to enter fairly easily. Not only did the employees not investigate their ages, but “that lady literally talked to us for 15 minutes. She was ready to sell us one.” Reed said.
King said,”They would even let us test them. No ID. They didn’t give a care in the world.”
According to Ashley Webb, toxicologist director of the Kentucky Regional Poison Control Center of Kosair Children’s Hospital, there has been 161 percent increase in calls from people with concerns over e-cigarettes, and “more than half of the calls (on electronic cigarette products) we have received were concerning children,” she said. “Kids are picking up the liquid cartridge when cartridges are left accessible or when an adult is changing the cartridge. They’re also getting a hold of the e-cigarette and taking it apart to expose the liquid. They then either ingest the liquid or get it onto their skin. Even on the skin, the nicotine is absorbed and can create adverse side effects.”
Since the amount of nicotine in a cartridge is not regulated, children are being exposed to the nicotine, a drug that causes flushing, sweating, headaches, dizziness, hyperactivity, restlessness, vomiting, and other side effects, or in sever cases, the heart rate and blood pressure drop to dangerously low levels, which could result in a coma, difficulty breathing, and potentially death.
Obviously this is a huge issue. If cigarettes, which supply nicotine as a main function, are restricted to children, why aren’t e-cigarettes and vapor devices?
This story has been updated to include links.
In the first two installment of this series, the hidden health risks of e-cigarettes were exposed, and the school board approved a ban on e-cigarrettes, despite the fact that no law is in place banning them from children or schools, and in fact, Oklahoma bills on this topic have been killed.