|E-cigarette and vaping devices come in an array of sizes and shapes.|
By ANGELA VANVECKHOEVEN | Health Education Manager, Well-Ahead Louisiana
A recently released report compiled by Well-Ahead Louisiana and the Louisiana Campaign for Tobacco-Free Living shows that vaping among the state’s middle and high school students has doubled since 2017 and tripled since 2015. 2019 E-Cigarette Use Among Louisiana Youth reveals that 32% of high school students and 15% of middle school students vape, which follows the national trend of increased vaping among youth and youth adults.
These numbers are especially alarming in light of the current outbreak of lung injury (EVALI) associated with e-cigarette use, also known as vaping. The CDC launched an investigation into the outbreak on Aug. 1, and as of Dec. 4 has confirmed 2,291 cases in 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, with 48 of the patients dying because of the illness. In Louisiana, 32 cases have been confirmed, with two deaths. The median age of victims is 24 nationally and 28 within the state.
As of Nov. 8, the CDC found vitamin E acetate in lung fluid samples from 29 patients from 10 states, the first detection of a potential chemical concern in biologic samples from EVALI patients. Vitamin E acetate usually does not cause harm when ingested as a vitamin supplement or applied to the skin. However, previous research suggests when vitamin E acetate is inhaled, it may interfere with normal lung functioning. Vitamin E acetate is used as an additive in the production of e-cigarettes because it resembles THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) oil, and it’s also used as a thickening ingredient in e-liquids. Click the links to learn more about the national outbreak and the Louisiana cases.
Even without the threat of EVALI, vaping can harm a teenager's still-developing brain and negatively affect memory, learning and concentration. To effectively protect young people from all forms of tobacco — including e-cigarettes, cigarettes, cigars, little cigars and hookah — Well-Ahead Louisiana offers the following resources and encourages adults to take action.
- KNOW WHY TEENS VAPE: According to the new report, 45% of middle school students and nearly 37% of high school students said the reason they vape is because a friend or family member does. More than 14% of middle school students and nearly 21% of high school students like that vape products are available in flavors. Nearly 7% of the middle school students and almost 15% of the high school students believe that vaping is less harmful than other tobacco products.
- KNOW THE RISKS AND EDUCATE YOUTH: In addition to harming brain development, nicotine exposure in youth can increase the risk for future addiction to other drugs. Well-Ahead has compiled resources to educate parents, teachers, coaches, etc. about the harmful effects of these products, as well as how to talk to teens about vaping.
- HELP YOUTH QUIT: Youth who vape are four times more likely to go on to smoke cigarettes. Quitting nicotine isn't easy, but it can be done with the right support. Find access to youth cessation resources here.
- IMPLEMENT EFFECTIVE, 100% TOBACCO-FREE SCHOOL POLICIES: Every Louisiana school district is required to have a written 100% tobacco-free school policy that prohibits the use of any tobacco products, including e-cigarettes, on campus and at school-related events for students, staff and visitors. It is important to educate and promote compliance among school staff to support this policy. Visit wellaheadla.com to ensure your school’s policy complies with Louisiana law and to find resources for effective implementation.
The bottom line
Because nicotine and other chemicals in e-cigarettes can be damaging to the development of a teen's brain, yet youth do not see vaping as being harmful, it's important for adults to understand the products youth are using and be prepared to talk about their effects. For more information, visit wellaheadla.com or contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.