"Whatever you call it, don’t call it safe."
Youth and Vaping Devices Health Advisory
Spokane Health Officer Issues Health Advisory Specific to Youth and Vaping Device Use
SPOKANE, Wash. – Oct. 14, 2015 – Spokane Regional Health District (SRHD) health officer Dr. Joel McCullough today issued a Health Advisory to area schools, asking for help from teachers and staff in warning youth of the dangers of using vaping devices (electronic cigarettes). The health advisory is also a call-to-action to families and the community for their help too in combatting use of these devices by youth under age 18.
“The substances adolescents and teens are using with these devices contain nicotine and other harmful chemicals. Nicotine is a highly addictive and toxic substance, regardless the method of delivery,” said McCullough. “There is a lot of misinformation about vaping devices. That is why, as Spokane’s health officer, I am imploring educators and school staff, as well as the broader community to help us stop the use of vaping devices and keep them and the liquids that go in them away from children of all ages.”
Electronic cigarettes (e‐cigarettes) are battery‐operated devices, often designed to resemble a cigarette, that deliver and emit a nicotine‐containing aerosol. The liquid solution used in the devices is commonly referred to as “e-juice.” The devices have many names, especially among youth and young adults, such as e-cigs, e-hookahs, vape pens, vape pipes or mods. Added McCullough, “Whatever you call it, don’t call it safe.”
The long-term health effects of inhaling nicotine or other substances using vaping devices is still not known. In addition to containing nicotine, the inhaled and exhaled aerosol has toxic chemicals known to cause cancer, such as cadmium and formaldehyde, as well as ultrafine particles that can irritate the lungs. Youth are also using the devices to inhale other substances such as THC (the active ingredient of marijuana) and driving under the influence of marijuana remains a serious concern.
Despite the fact that the sale and possession of these devices and components is banned to those under 18 in Spokane County, youth are still gaining access in a variety of ways. Some vendors located near schools continue to sell to youth. And e-juice is offered in a variety of candy and fruit flavors. Adolescents and teens also gain access through friends at school, and from parents, family and friends. Local youth report ordering liquid nicotine online, as well as making their own e-juice.
The devices, e-juice and related material can be confiscated by school or law enforcement personnel, but it is all relatively easy to hide and the secondhand vapor is nearly odorless so it is easy for students to use on school grounds and in class and not get caught.
Of concern, according to 2014 Healthy Youth Survey data, fewer Spokane teens consider nicotine and marijuana use to be risky. Use of vaping devices—26 percent among the county’s high school sophomores—increased since the 2012 survey and is 31 percent higher than the state’s rate. Marijuana use—19 percent among sophomores—also increased. Use of vaping devices, as well as marijuana, among Spokane County sophomores are both higher than the rate of regular cigarette-use (12 percent).
“Youth substance use going up means that more of our teens are at higher risk for impairment and addiction,” said McCullough. “These behaviors contribute to the leading causes of death, disability and social problems among youth and adults locally and nationally. School personnel, community and family support is needed to keep vaping devices and marijuana out of the hands of youth.”
Along with an increase in use, there has been a spike in calls to the Washington Poison and Drug Information Center (WAPC), recording a 239 percent increase in reports of liquid nicotine poisoning from 2013 to 2014. The e-juice used in vaping devices is not currently regulated and has no packaging requirements. Subsequently, youth have no way of knowing the amount of nicotine they are inhaling or ingesting. Even in very small amounts nicotine can be lethal.
Other areas of concern specific to vaping device use and youth*:
- Exposure to nicotine during adolescence can harm brain development.
- The devices are not FDA-approved tobacco cessation aids.
- In recent years, vaping device advertising jumped more than 1,200 percent and used marketing tactics to appeal to youth. This is a prohibited practice in traditional cigarette advertising to shield youth. Despite vaping devices using harmful nicotine, youth are being enticed by associated advertising including the use of cartoon characters and flavors that appeal to children.