HARRISON – On Thursday, April 7, Harrison Community Schools hosted “Vaping in Plain Sight” presented by Shay Tullar, Ten16 Recovery Network Prevention Coordinator for Mecosta County. A bounty of valuable information was presented, and unfortunately only about a dozen people attended – which included some school personnel.
Tullar presented information aimed at helping parents and others understand the pervasiveness and magnitude of the vaping problem among youth. It has been known that teens are inclined to follow the examples set by other teens, and usually the more outrageous the behavior the more likely it will be emulated. Unfortunately, that is now extending and expanding among younger and younger children, as can be seen on YouTube and Tik Tok videos which show toddlers and younger sucking on a vaping device. Make no mistake: that is not cute, it is child abuse.
Tullar’s presentation was highly informative and observed in great detail the multitude of ways vapes can be secreted, the health hazards, and ongoing detrimental effects of inhaling quantifiable poisons. Yes, poisons. When thinking back to the time legislation was proposed which would disallow tobacco smoking in restaurants and other businesses due to the ill effects of secondhand smoke on other customers or co-workers. At that time, it was noted that cigarette smoke contains some 100 chemicals – many of them known to be cancer-causing agents. Studies have now shown that there are ill effects from second-hand vaping, and third-hand as well.
Chemical breakdowns of the virulent vape varieties show electronic cigarette/vapes to include such things as: propylene glycol (a water attractant used in the food industry, but never intended as something that should be introduced to a lung), vegetable glycerin, nicotine, benzene (volatile organic compound found in car exhaust/causes harmful effects to bone marrow/decreases red blood cells leading to anemia), acetone (yup, the stuff that takes off your fingernail polish), acrolein, diacetyl, cadmium (long-term exposure leads to cancer/organ system toxicity),
Chromium (causes sleep disturbance, mood changes, allergic reactions, risk of liver/kidney damage), formaldehyde (preserved flesh, anyone?), xylene, toluene (paint thinner), fluorine (on the Hazard Substances List because it causes irritation, including of the respiratory tract), diethylene glycol (used in antifreeze linked to lung disease),
Isoprene, lead (heavy metal/causes brain damage in children), aluminum, potassium, nickel (heavy metal/smoking increases uptake, resulting in a multitude of health risks), sulfer, barium, rubidium, acetaldehyde (probably Group B2 carcinogen), arsenic (can cause skin bladder and lung cancer),
N-nitrosonornicotine (possible human carcinogen/known to cause esophageal and nasal cancer in animals), chrysene (shown to cause skin, liver and lung cancer in animals), butanal, limonene, manganese, zirconium, propanal, copper, acetic acid, titanium anthracene (nose, throat and lung irritant), and valeraldehyde,
It was noted that one e-cigarette contains the nicotine equivalent of a 20-cigarette pack: nicotine, one of the most addictive substances on earth. The human brain does not finish development until about age 25, and due to lack of development, children are at a substantially greater risk of forming an addiction that can be long lasting and cause health issues later in life.
This paves the way to serious overuse of and exposure to the many additional unsafe chemicals they contain. That is enabled partly by the erroneous idea that vaping devices are safer than standard cigarettes – but safer does not mean safe, and not infrequently e-cigarettes contain more nicotine than standard cigarettes.
Ever hear anyone say “It’s just water vapor?” Also an erroneous statement. E-cigarettes contain no water; if water vapor is coming out, it is being extracted from lung tissues – the liquid protecting those lung tissues, via which oxygen is replenished into the blood stream.
It is critical not to lose sight of the fact that adolescence is a time of development, and if development is interrupted, there can be severe consequences. Not the least of which is brain development: gray matter is formed until about age 21, and the white matter connections within the brain are complete around age 26-28.
The early driving force in the e-cigarette phenomenon was JUUL, whose creators in 2015 said they had developed a device which could enable smokers to quit tobacco, and was proud to be separate from “Big Tobacco.” Yet, if they were intending to help people quit, why did they purchase ad space on child-focused Nickelodeon and Cartoon Network as claimed in a lawsuit? And how did JUUL allow Marlboro to invest $12.8 billion in JUUL, now owning 25% of JUUL. This company now represents 73% of all e-cigarette revenue and is estimated to have made $3.4 billion in 2019, up from about $1 billion the year before.
Traditional tobacco companies, who stand to lose traditional adult customers to e-cigarette use, have repeatedly denied targeting youth (remember Joe Camel?). Note the following statement made by a Philip Morris (minority stakeholder in JUUL) member: “We do realize the teenager is tomorrow’s potential regular customer.”
R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co., the current owner of Vuse, is also highly invested e-cigarette profits, including flavored products blatantly targeting young people. This company’s telling statement of Sept. 30, 1974 (at a time when it denied marketing to children): “They represent tomorrow’s cigarette business … As this 14-24 age group matures, they will account for a key share of the total cigarette volume – for at least the next 25 years.”
R.J. Reynolds’ Vuse warning label states “Vuse contains nicotine extracted from the tobacco plant. Nicotine is addictive and no tobacco product has been shown to be safe. Underage sale prohibited.”
Sadly, the problem of breathing aerosols is not limited to the child-enticing sweetly flavored vapes and the arsenal of delivery systems. It also includes combination vape pens/other devices which can also deliver aerosolized marijuana compounds. These, too, leave no telltale residual smoke or stinky smells that would enable others to know someone was using the fruity flavored vapes or marijuana/THC. This means there is the misperception that nothing “unpleasant” or “blatantly unhealthy to the user or others” is happening, thus no social avoidance of the user. That registers with the user as acceptance and validation of usage.
And, since the availability of THC comes not only from smoking the herb, but also through edibles containing refined concentrations, the Effects of Acute Marijuana Intoxication were addressed in information from the American Psychiatric Association and publication in the Lancet. Those include: anxiety, dizziness, dry mouth, euphoria, impaired motor function, increased appetite, increased sociability, laughter, perceptual alteration, relaxation, talkativeness.
Edibles come with an innate overdose risk due to their concentrations/potency – and the fact that it takes longer for edibles to be digested and transfer into the blood stream than an inhaled product. This leads to overdosing, such as when a child (or adult) eats a whole “cookie” when the prescribed dosing portion is 1/10 of that cookie. Confusion also arises from the look-alike product branding/labeling: Pop Tart/Pot Tart; Cinnamon Toast Crunch/Cannamon Toast Crunch; Sour Patch/Stoney Patch, etc.
The health hazards of using e-cigarettes and THC are numerous, but there are also occasional catastrophic device malfunction explosions where users have caused severe eye, face and hand injuries.
Again, underlying/enabling it all is the blatant manipulation by manufacturers to ensure an addicted customer base for the future. Companies that have found ways to disguise and enable students to secret their products within the hallowed halls of their schools/classrooms: Items disguised as asthma inhalers, computer thumb drives, cell phones, pens, digital watches with dials that detach to enable THC delivery, actual hoodies constructed to contain vaping devices within the garment.
In addressing the question “What can be done?” Tullar said legislative efforts have been made, and specifically that on Dec. 20, 2019, the Food and Drug Administration changed the legal age to purchase tobacco to 21, although that law doesn’t include limited use. She said the FDA began regulating e-cigarette products like tobacco products in 2016, regulating the manufacture, import, packaging, labeling, advertising, promotion, sale and distribution. The FDA requires all products to have warning labels on their packaging. Also, with the passage of Tobacco 21, the sale of vapor devices to anyone younger than 21 is illegal.
More statistics for thought: Young e-cigarette users are 3.5 times more likely to use marijuana; 1-in-3 teens has tried marijuana by 12th grade; almost 6% of high school seniors are daily users of marijuana; and vaping marijuana has been linked with lung illnesses – as of Nov. 20, 2019, that included 2,290 illnesses and 47 deaths.
This is the fight recently joined by Harrison Community Schools when it signed on to a lawsuit against JUUL being tried in California. It’s a start, but the battle cannot be won in a single court case. Legislation will be required to rein in child endangering businesses/manufacturers/retailers, and communities will need to get on the same page about protecting their young people.
The phrase “Brains aren’t fully cooked until their early 20s” is apt and often is used to excuse unwise behavior. Unfortunately, brains are getting “fried” at an earlier and earlier age, and adults are the only ones in a position to start early in helping their children create a mindset appropriately focused on the importance of health and how it affects their future…not what their young friends think is cool.
Shay Tullar can be reached at email@example.com or 231-527-1499.
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