Youth electronic cigarette, vaping use on rise in N.H.

Published: 8/9/2019 6:26:37 PM
Modified: 8/9/2019 6:26:26 PM

A New Hampshire survey says 24% of high school-age youth reported having used electronic cigarettes and cigars, vaping and hookah devices in a 30-day period, compared to the national average of 13%.

The data is from the 2017 New Hampshire Youth Risk Behavior Survey.

Tricia Tilley, the state Health Department’s deputy director for its Division of Public Health Services, said Friday that the increase puts a new generation at risk for nicotine addiction.

She notes a new state law that updates the definitions of electronic smoking devices and liquids and clarifies that all tobacco-related product devices are prohibited in any public education facility or grounds.

Schools and parents have been trying to play catch-up from the misconception that vaping was safer and less addictive than smoking. 

An organization called Breathe NH has developed a program that it has brought to several schools around the state in an attempt to clarify the impact of vaping.

“Nicotine is a trigger like other substances for young people because your brain is still developing until you are 25,” according to Kim Coronis, policy and program manager for Breathe NH. “Nicotine triggers that reward center of the brain … that’s why the potential for a young person to get hooked on this stuff is higher versus an adult.”

Schools have been wrestling with how to balance discipline with prevention and treatment in their response to the soaring numbers of vaping students.

In Massachusetts, the Boston Globe reported a growing number of schools are considering installing sensors in the bathrooms to detect e-cigarette vapor.

Using e-cigarettes, often called vaping, has now overtaken smoking traditional cigarettes in popularity among students, says the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Last year, one in five U.S. high school students reported vaping the previous month, according to a CDC survey.

E-cigarettes produce an aerosol by heating a liquid that usually contains high levels of nicotine – the addictive drug in regular cigarettes and other tobacco products – flavorings and other chemicals. Users inhale this aerosol into their lungs; when they exhale, bystanders often breathe it in, too.

Compared with regular cigarettes, the research on the health effects of e-cigarettes is painfully thin. Experts say that although using e-cigarettes appears less harmful over the long run than smoking regular cigarettes, that doesn’t mean they’re safe – particularly for youth, young adults, pregnant women or adults who do not currently use tobacco products.

“Studies have shown that e-cigarette use among young people is potentially associated with an increased risk of progressing on to cigarette use and to vaping cannabis, which has become increasingly common in recent years,” said Dr. Renee Goodwin, a researcher and professor of epidemiology at the City University of New York and Columbia University who studies tobacco and cannabis use.

Besides nicotine, e-cigarettes can include other harmful substances, including heavy metals like lead and cancer-causing agents. The vaping liquid is often offered in a variety of flavors that appeal to youth and is packaged in a way that makes them attractive to children. And the long-term health effects, Goodwin noted, are unknown.

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