Teens and pre-teens aren’t smoking tobacco cigarettes in large numbers the way young people did in the past, but they are increasingly turning to e-cigarettes. And that is just as dangerous, according to health experts.
Many e-cigarette brands contain nicotine and are just as addictive as tobacco products, experts said. Young people are often unaware that the candy-flavored e-cigarettes they are buying are potentially harmful to their health.
Eager to get information into the hands of parents, the District 20 Community Education Council will host a forum, “Teen Facts About Vaping,” on Wednesday, April 17, at McKinley Intermediate School, 7301 Fort Hamilton Parkway, starting at 7 p.m. The District 20 CEC oversees schools in Bay Ridge, Dyker Heights and parts of Bensonhurst, Borough Park and Sunset Park.
E-cigarettes work by heating nicotine and chemicals and then creating water vapor that is inhaled by the smoker. The process of smoking an e-cigarette is known as vaping.
Since e-cigarettes contain less nicotine than tobacco cigarettes, smokers have used the devices in an attempt to quit smoking. But just because e-cigarettes contain less nicotine, that doesn’t mean they are nicotine free.
“Our children don’t know how dangerous these products are. They think it’s just flavoring,” CEC President Adele Doyle told this newspaper.
E-cigarettes come in flavors like vanilla, watermelon, mint, even buttered popcorn, that are bound to attract young people.
The guest speakers will be Achala Talati, acting director of tobacco policy and progress for the New York City Department of Health, and Shawn McClain, field support liaison for the District 20 superintendent’s office. The CEC also invited State Sen. Andrew Gounardes and Councilmember Justin Brannan to speak about legislative efforts to stop the spread of teen vaping.
The purpose of the forum is to arm parents with the information they need to educate their kids about the dangers of e-cigarettes, said Doyle, a mother of four. She said the forum will also serve to raise awareness of the problem so that a concerted effort can be mounted to keep kids from vaping.
“The problem is deceptive marketing. These products are marketed like they’re harmless. I don’t know how delis get away with selling them. We need a carding system,” Doyle said, adding that she thinks merchants should be required to demand identification cards from customers seeking to buy e-cigarettes to prove they are over the age of 21.
It’s not just high school students who are vaping, Doyle said. Middle school youngsters are picking up the habit. “If we can address it early, in middle school, we can help our children,” she said.
There are alarming statistics on vaping and young people.
The number of teens in the U.S. who tried vaping more than doubled between 2017 and 2018, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. The FDA reported that 1.3 million young people tried vaping in 2017. Last year, that figure jumped to 3.5 million.
Sixty-six percent of teenagers in the U.S. who were surveyed thought e-cigarettes contained only flavoring and were unaware that they also contain nicotine, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse.
The U.S. Department of Health found that teens who try vaping are four times more likely to take up smoking tobacco cigarettes.
“I don’t know how this issue of teen e-cigarette use is not receiving more attention. The statistics of teen e-cigarette use are growing exponentially every year,” Doyle said. “And every year teens are becoming addicted to nicotine not even knowing what is in the e-cigarettes they are smoking. Novelty and deceptive marketing have victimized our teens, and it’s time we make the concerted push we need to attack this menace.”
Doyle, who brought the issue up to Schools Chancellor Richard Carranza at a meeting with CECs from around the city on April 3, said she is hoping Carranza and Mayor Bill de Blasio take action.
For more information on the forum, call the District 20 CEC at 718-759-3920 or email CEC20@schools.nyc.gov.