Electronic cigarettes were marketed as a safe alternative to regular cigarettes, as people turned from smoking to vaping. While an e-cigarette may be cleaner and present less of a fire hazard — not to mention it eliminates the dangers to others of second-hand smoke — vaping presents other health issues. It’s fine if adults choose vaping, but it is fueling nicotine use among young people.
Earlier this month, CBS News reported on new concerns about a potential link between teen vaping and severe lung disease. Inhaling the stuff in a vape pen isn’t really a healthy choice.
It’s the increase in tobacco use by kids that has the Kansas Association of School Board concerned. KASB is recommending that school boards strengthen anti-tobacco policies. Meanwhile, education and health officials in Kansas announced Tuesday they will seek an increase in the minimum age to purchase tobacco products, from 18 to 21.
KASB reports that from 2017 to 2018, e-cigarette use by U.S. high school students increased from 11.7% to 20.8%. In 2017, almost 35% of Kansas high school students reported they’d tried e-cigarettes and 10.6% said they regularly used them.
Changing the legal age for tobacco purchases may help, but simply making it illegal to buy tobacco until a person is 21 won’t solve everything. Educators have said they have seen even middle school students addicted to vaping and that some students are using the e-cigarette devices and vape pens to smoke marijuana and other illegal drugs. That’s why the State Board of Education formed a working group and provided recommendations to better inform students, parents and the general public about the dangers of e-cigarettes. (KASB is part of that group.)
There’s a lot of information available from multiple trustworthy sources that explains the risks e-cigarettes and vape pens pose to young people. Kansas Department of Health and Environment offers a “Kansas Vape-Free Schools Toolkit” online at www.kdheks.gov/tobacco/vape_free_schools.htm. There’s even a link to a free text-messaging program, created with input from teens, college students and young adults who have attempted to, or successfully, quit e-cigarettes. To access the program, test “DITCHJUUL” to 88709.
We don’t usually want our kids to be quitters, but when it comes to any form of tobacco use, quitting is the best choice.