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The Teen Vaping Epidemic

A man vaping

E-Cigarette use among American teens has skyrocketed (Wikimedia Commons)

Noon Edition airs on Fridays at noon on WFIU.

American teenagers are turning to e-cigarettes in record numbers, and the Surgeon General believes we’re in the midst of an epidemic.

2018 saw the largest increase in teenage vaping yet, as 20.8 percent of high school seniors reported using an e-cigarette in the last month compared to 11.7 percent in 2017

An estimated 3.6 million young Americans vaped in 2018, but many don’t even know that the devices contain nicotine.

Now, educators, parents, and health professionals are scrambling to respond to a rapidly growing industry.

Join us this week on Noon Edition as we discuss the epidemic of young people vaping in the United States.

Guests

Jon Macy, Assistant Professor of Public Health Administration in the IU School of Public Health

Ana Ehinger, IU student and e-cigarette user

Amy Netherton, Vice President of domestic and international sales and marketing and regulatory affairs director at Flavor Revolution and President of the Indiana Smoke-Free Alliance

Matt Stark, Principal at Brown County High School

Conversation

Jon Macy thinks that it’s too soon to see some of the long term effects of vaping and worries about the potential effects of vaping on younger people.

“If you’re talking about adults who are established cigarette smokers, it’s an opportunity to get nicotine another way that’s almost surely less harmful than smoking a cigarette,” Macy says. “On the other hand, if you’re talking about adolescents and teenagers whose brains are still developing, it’s probably a bad thing for a developing brain and people are very concerned about them then transitioning to combustible cigarettes, which as we know have all kinds of adverse health outcomes.”

Amy Netherton agrees with Macy that younger people should not be using e-cigarettes and that there are misconceptions about manufacturers and retailers of e-cigarettes.

“I think that the big misconception, when I see media reports, they think that people who I represent –over 100 locations across the US–we absolutely don’t want youth to vape, at all and I think that’s the misconception as well, I think,” Netherton says. “‘They’re marketing to kids, they’re doing this, that, or the other.’ I’m not going to say there are not bad players in our industry by any means, and I think that’s what we work on at the Indiana Smoke Free Alliance … We do see the benefits for adults — smokers. We don’t see the benefit for anyone who hasn’t smoked at all and we definitely don’t see any benefit to children.”

Ana Ehinger thinks that cracking down on flavors that might appeal to younger users will not be as effective at limiting interest as predicted.

“I feel like if it’s truly an epidemic and it’s truly addicting, then something as simple as a flavor won’t turn prospective buyers away,” Ehinger says.

Matt Stark says that one in five high school seniors vaping sounds right based on his own experiences as principal at Brown County High School.

“I think the issue is, because a lot of the students are under 18, we also have kids then providing e-cigarettes to each other and trading them and there’s even websites out there to say how to take a hit from an e-cigarette in class and not have the vapor be seen,” Stark says. “So it becomes a constant problem as we’re going through this … I’m just concerned because I agree with those statistics. It has risen just incredibly fast with our kids without them knowing [about the nicotine in e-cigarettes] and then they have an addiction to nicotine at that point.”

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