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January 23, 2019

12/31/2018 11:19:00 AM
The vaping issue is here and real among teens

If someone told your teenager they had something to sell them that was small, secretive and dangerous to their health, would you encourage them to buy it?
Of course the answer would be no.
But those adjectives describe the latest problem facing teens, and that is the problems e-cigarettes are causing. While the devices are being marketed as something to curb smoking real cigarettes, the opposite is true.
"We are looking to inform families of a growing trend affecting our student population," Dodgeville High School Assistant Principal Ryan Bohnsack said in a communication with parents in the district.
"Over the past school year we have seen a significant number of reports about e-cigarette usage in our bathrooms, hallway and classrooms."
Bohnsack says the most popular form of e-cigarette is the JUUL. The device is most popular because it comes in the form of a USB flash drive.
"We need your help in informing our students about the risks associated with these products," Bohnsack said.
Dodgeville is not the only school facing the problem termed as "vaping." Area schools are reaching out to each other to share ideas about how to address and curb the problem. Schools in Dane County have been especially concerned.
Why so much concern?
On December 18, Surgeon General Jerome Adams issued an advisory when he said from his office, "I am officially declaring e-cigarette (vaping) among youth an epidemic in the United States."
The United States? That makes it a national problem and that says nothing about the epidemic.
There are differing opinions on the percentages of youth who are involved with vaping. The Surgeon General said in a one month period 11% of high school seniors, eight percent of 10th graders and 3.5 percent of eighth graders report they have vaped with nicotine. Other reports estimate the percentages are much higher.
Vaping is to inhale vapor created from a liquid heated up inside a device. The liquids contain a combination of propylene glycol as a base along with nicotine, marijuana or flaring chemicals that produce flavors such as mint, cotton candy, fruit punch, creme brulee, vanilla, chocolate, etc.
The liquid used in the vaping device is made from nicotine salts found in loose-leaf tobacco instead of the traditional free-base nicotine found in most e-cigarette liquid. The New England Journal of Medicine says this may allow the user to experience a higher and more addictive concentration of nicotine.
Addiction is a huge problem and takes on many forms. Just read the court news and see the number of drug cases that are tried. Add in the addition to alcohol that translates all too often into OWIs and sometimes much worse when injuries and death are involved. So what can be done to keep youth from becoming addicted with this new problem?
E-cigarettes arrived in the US in 2007 as a means used by adults to quit smoking regular cigarettes. Studies show that regular cigarettes have more than 93 harmful or potentially harmful chemicals in them with over 7000 total chemicals. E-cigarettes are touted as a healthier alternative to regular cigarettes but vape liquids can still contain nicotine which is highly addictive.
Even though companies deny it, the movement toward the youth market began in 2015 with the introduction of the now popular Juul. The pod-mod device entered the market late but it has since surged ahead of its competitors. In August reports had Juul accounting for 72% of the e-cig market.
The Juul is sleek, slim and mirrors a flash drive which makes it easy to conceal. An unsuspecting parent could see one on a dresser or night stand and think it is a flash drive or a device having something to do with electronics. It has become so popular that teens have given it its own verb---juuling.
While teens do not see the Juul as a danger, a closer look finds a single juulpod containing 40 mg of nicotine which is similar to the nicotine yield of a pack of cigarettes. Taking it a step further there is a huge difference between consuming a pod a week or one or more per day.
Joe Pepper, who serves as the police liaison officer for the Dodgeville school district says, the problem is everywhere. He said besides the problem with addiction and health problems there is also a danger of the device exploding.
"I have seen videos of a device exploding and one was in someone's pocket," he said. "They blow up and they burn bright and long."
He added that when one is confiscated and turned in as evidence it is in a protective area where damage can be contained if it explodes.
Bohnsack said students not juuling are not happy if they have to go in a bathroom where people are doing it or have done it and left.
"If you can't go in a restroom without having to deal with it, then we have a problem," he said.
He went on to say kids seem to believe that juuling is healthier than cigarettes but putting a substance into your body that doesn't belong there cannot be healthy.
At Dodgeville, the administration and staff have been taking measures to inform the students about the dangers associated with vaping.
One is "popcorn lung" which is an irreversible respiratory disease where the airways in the lungs become irreversibly scarred and constricted impairing breathing.
Ear, eye and throat irritation is common among vape users.
In youth the brain is not fully developed and will not be until the age of 25. Long term nicotine exposure during youth and young adulthood can be long lasting and can lower impulse control and mood disorders. The nicotine in e-cigs and other tobacco products can prime young brains for addiction to other drug such as cocaine and meth.
Why is there not more information about the effects coming from the companies that manufacture e-cigs?
No doubt the fact that it is an estimated $3.5 billion dollar industry in the US. And it appears there is no letting up in getting people to use them with many appealing flavors available.
Students at Dodgeville schools have heard the subject of vaping addressed at advisory time. They have received hand-outs, heard discussions and had the opportunity to ask questions. Much of the discussion centers around how to get vaping out of the school.
Parents have been asked to attend sessions to discuss the problem but turnout has been light. Bohnsack knows that being a parent today is not an easy task.
"It is hard to make a living right now," Bohnsack said. "Parents often cannot be around all the time, but they still have to be aware and knowledgeable and build a partnership to help curb the problem."
"We need to develop the partnership between the school, the parents and the community," Bohnsack added. "We want to help get this out of the lives of our students."
Pepper feels the schools have been doing what they can to address the problem.
"In my 2 1/2 years here, I have seen the schools do a lot," Pepper said. "They have shared information and are always there to offer help."
"We are always available to students and parents if they want to talk about this issue," Bohnsack said. "We have the resources to help and if a student feels he or she is addicted we have resources to help cut the addiction."
One problem is vaping materials are available through online shopping. The materials are also being purchased by people of legal age and sold to the underaged at a profit.
Talking to teens about the effects of vaping is being advocated by the agencies seeing how serious the problem is. But talking to kids has little effect unless the right information is given.
"Parents lose credibility if they say something to try and convince their child or children who then find out it is not true," said a health researcher who is helping schools in Connecticut curb the problem.
Some advice of what to say to teens when talking to them about vaping might be:
-Ask the teen what they know about "Juuling."
-Be clear that you are learning about the issue together.
-Mention vaping is not in be best interest of the child as becoming addicted to nicotine is not good.
-Emphasize the "Juuling" still means using nicotine and it will cause harm.
Parents are advised to reach their teens through any method that will get their attention. It might be as simple as starting out with a text message, then moving to informed conversation. Sharing facts and resources is the best way to inform both the parents and the teens.
"Once again, we are here to help," said Bohnsack. "We are all in this together."

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