At a press conference Thursday morning, Governor Jay Inslee released preliminary data from the 2014 Healthy Youth Survey in which 23 percent of Washington’s high school seniors reported using e-cigarettes.
Furthermore, high school sophomores were vaping at twice the rate of regular cigarettes. This represents a significant increase in e-cigarette use since the 2012 survey.
“What we’re seeing is alarming,” said Dr. Gary Goldbaum, health officer and director at the Snohomish Health District. “The companies marketing these products are zeroing in on youth with ads featuring celebrities and other social media campaigns telling them that vaping is cool and safe. These are dangerous messages to send to our kids.”
Electronic cigarettes, also known as e-cigarettes or vaping devices, represent a market that has grown exponentially since they were first introduced in mid-2000s. They are typically equipped with a battery, an atomizer, and a cartridge for liquid nicotine. There are more than 400 different brands of e-cigarettes and the liquid nicotine comes in more than 7,000 flavors, all of which can be purchased online. The devices can also be used with marijuana, heroin, and other drugs.
The devices are not regulated by the Federal Drug Administration, so manufacturers are not required to disclose product ingredients. In addition to the nicotine, vaping may expose users and by-standers to harmful toxins like lead and formaldehyde. It will take decades to fully understand long-term effects of e-cigarettes and exposure to vaporized nicotine and other drugs.
“Nicotine is nicotine, regardless if smoked or vaped. We can’t afford to let years go by before acting to protect teens from a lifetime of health problems,” said Goldbaum. “This is a drug that the U.S. Surgeon General has noted is just as addictive as cocaine and heroin. We need to do more to protect our children–it’s critical that our legislators do what is in their power to keep these harmful devices off limits to Washington’s youth.”
A bill is currently under consideration during this legislative session. If approved, it would require retailers obtain licensing for the sale of vaping devices, prohibit internet sales, ensure child-safe packaging, and restrict marketing and sales activities targeted at youth. It would also impose a tax on vaping products that would be on par with other addictive substances like alcohol and tobacco. Taxing tobacco products has proven to be one of the most effective strategies to reduce the use of harmful and addicting substances, particularly among youth.
The final 2014 Healthy Youth Survey data and reports will be released by the Washington State Department of Health next month.
Snohomish Health District works for a safer and healthier community through disease prevention, health promotion, and protection from environmental threats. To read more about the District and for important health information, visit www.snohd.org