Upshur County Tobacco Coalition informs e-cigs are not a safe tobacco alternative

This is what an E-cigarette looks like. It is comparable in size to a thumb drive and can be easily concealed in one’s hand.

BUCKHANNON—The Upshur County Tobacco Prevention Coalition has declared vigilance in spreading awareness on the dangers of Juul and other e-cigarette use, particulary among youths. Accordingly, a proclamation just designated February as e-cigarette/Juul awareness month. Barbara Crawford Tucker, Region 7 Adolescent Health Initiative coordinator, and Lori Ulderich Harvey gave a compelling presentation at Thursday’s Upshur County Commission meeting. Tucker reported that the problem is so bad, the U.S. Surgeon General has declared this issue an epidemic with no indication of slowing down. Those attending the meeting were astonished to learn from the group that there is currently $0 funding allocated in West Virginia for tobacco prevention. There is widespread misconception that using e-cigarettes is safer than traditional tobacco, but research indicates it is not a safe alternative.  There is no FDA oversight in manufacturing and there is no way to know exactly what is in an e-cigarette. The Surgeon General has concluded that e-cigarette aerosol is not safe. Tucker stated, “It’s not just water vapor.” She explained there are many other harmful additives to the various products on the market besides addictive nicotine, such as chemicals known to cause cancer, heavy metals, formaldehyde and even vegetable oil. Juul is one of the most popular brands of e-cig devices, but they are also known as vapes, mods and tank systems. Just one Juul pod contains 5 percent nicotine and is the equivalent of an entire pack of cigarettes. The mixture of water, nicotine and chemicals is heated, which turns the solution into an aero-sol that is inhaled by the user. E-cigarettes can also be used for the delivery of illicit drugs through the liquid e-juice. Harvey explained that one of the reasons Juul’s are so popular with youth is the small size, which resembles a USB flash drive or memory stick device and can be easily concealed. Tucker reported that the use and possession of e-cigarettes is currently “the #1 disciplinary issue in central West Virginia schools”. She said that Buckhannon Upshur High School administration estimated that four to six devices are confiscated at school every day. Unfortunately, it’s a huge problem with middle school age children as well.

The coalition provided some shocking statistics, citing e-cigarettes as a $1 billion industry that is supposedly a less harmful nicotine-delivery product for current adult smokers or for the cessation of smoking by adults. However, Tucker described advertising campaigns that are seemingly targeting children. One such product even resembles an apple juice box and many offer flavors like cotton candy. Another feature that seems to be making them more appealing to kids is the array of decorative skins available that allow users to decorate or customize their devices.

West Virginia received an “F” on its report card from the American Lung Association, according to Tucker. She said Senate Bill 348 seeks to push the legal age to purchase products containing nicotine from 18 to 21 years old.

A message from the U.S. Surgeon General stated, “The human brain is the last organ to fully develop, at around age 25. Nicotine in e-cigarettes can harm brain development and lead to addiction in youth and young adults. Let’s protect our kids.” The bottom line is that e-cigarettes are not safe, especially for kids and most contain nicotine, which is highly addictive. Research suggests nicotine can prime young brains for addiction to other drugs too. Parents are urged to talk with their children about the dangers of e-cigarettes and can get the facts at E-cigarettes.SurgeonGeneral.gov.

The West Virginia Adolescent Health Initiative supports community collaborative efforts designed to develop the assets youth need to thrive and become successful across the state. If you are interested in helping spread awareness about these or similar issues and promoting positive youth development, please contact coordinator, Barbara Crawford Tuckerat[email protected] She covers Region 7, which includes Barbour, Doddridge, Gilmer, Harrison, Lewis, Marion, Monongalia, Randolph, Taylor, Tucker, and Upshur counties.

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