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E-Cigarettes and Youth


by Dr. Mark B. Johnson, Jefferson County Public Health Executive Director
comments open from June 23 until July 12


Major tobacco companies, including the makers of Marlboro, Camel and Newport cigarettes, have a long history of marketing to youth and are now selling nicotine vaporizers in Colorado. Vaporizers, also called e-cigarettes or hookah pens, appeal to youth because of colorful or trendy high-tech packaging and kid-friendly content flavors such as strawberry, chocolate and menthol. Glamorized in advertisements and used by celebrities, e-cigarettes are often promoted as a means of expressing independence and rebellion.

Given the intensive marketing of e-cigarettes, it is hardly surprising that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported this fall that the number of middle and high school youth who had tried an e-cigarette doubled from 2011 to 2012. While the aerosol emitted doesn’t smell like a burning cigarette, the liquid used in vaporizers often contains nicotine, the same poisonous and highly addictive substance found in conventional cigarettes, in addition to other poisonous or cancer-causing chemicals.

This liquid, found in disposable e-cigarettes and as replacement cartridges or “e-juice” for reusable vaporizers, poses an added danger. The high concentration of nicotine can be deadly, especially for young children, and exposure to e-cigarette liquid has led to a dramatic rise in the number of calls to poison control centers.

Despite being illegal for youth to buy, the use of e-cigarettes, hookah pens and other vaporizers is on the rise. Vaporizers are advertised and sold at stores where youth shop, and youth are purchasing them online by claiming to be older when asked for age verification. According to a March 2014 report in JAMA Pediatrics, youth who reported using e-cigarettes are more likely to also smoke regular cigarettes, smoke heavily, and have less success with quitting, even though they are often touted as tools to help cut down on smoking.

Another concern is that vaporizers can be bought or modified to “vape” marijuana, which is illegal for youth under the age of 21. Manufacturers are promoting their ability to hide the odor and deliver high potency marijuana.

For more information, or to get involved in local prevention and policy efforts that promote tobacco-free living, visit www.tobaccofreejeffco.com/vaporizers.html, email tobaccofree@jeffco.us, or call 303-275-7555.

 
 
 
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