The Food and Drug Administration is set to crack down on the sale of flavored e-cigarette liquid, according to the Associated Press, banning it’s sale at locations that do not check customer’s age on entry.
The FDA will also force companies to change packaging that is specifically designed to appeal to children, including flavored e-cigarette liquid that is packaged to look like candy or cookies.
For the first time in two decades, tobacco use among teens increased, according to CNBC. In the same article, CDC data shows that as many as one in five teenagers have used e-cigarettes.
The FDA categorizes e-cigarettes, vaporizers, and their associated products as electronic nicotine delivery systems (ENDS), and has an extensive description of their potential appearance. According to the FDA, ENDS that look like traditional tobacco products — cigarettes, cigars, and pipes — and can be easy to spot. However, there are also ENDS that look like large flash drives, pens, credit cards, or portable battery chargers, that can look innocuous.
An ENDS vaporizes a sometimes flavored liquid that a user can then inhale, leading to the term “vaping,” to describe their use.
Geneva High School Principal Douglas Wetherholt said vaping has been a significant issue at his school in the past. “We had a period of time where it was common,” Wetherholt said. He added that, at the worst point, one or two people were being caught vaping in school every day. Now, Wetherholt said, that number is down to one or two a week.
Even though the number of incidents has decreased, Wetherholt is still concerned about his students vaping. Geneva High School follows the state guidelines and practices a zero-tolerance policy for students that are caught vaping, or with an ENDS.
“(Vaping) was sold as a safe alternative to smoking,” Wetherholt said.
“Safer does not mean safe,” Alexandra Camplese, Health Educator at the Ashtabula County Health Department, said. “Although e-cigarettes may be a less harmful option, they are not a harmless option.” Because vaping is so new, Camplese said, there haven’t been enough studies to know just how harmful it can be, long-term. Teen vaping has even been declared an epidemic by the U.S. Surgeon General, Camplese said.
The presence of nicotine in e-cigarettes makes them addictive, Camplese said, and teenager’s brains are much quicker to form addictions.
ENDS can also be used for THC, Wetherholt said, one of the active chemicals in marijuana.
County schools have reacted to the trend, both with health education and stiff punishments.
Most schools in the area immediately cite students caught vaping.
Vaping below the legal age is covered under the same section of the Ohio Revised Code as juvenile smoking or tobacco possession, Juvenile Court Administrator Andrew Misiak said. The maximum fine for juvenile offenders is $100 dollars. Generally, though, juveniles are fined $20 and given either community service or a research project, Misiak said. If a juvenile pleads guilty, they are fined $100 and have to pay court costs.
Geneva Middle School principle Alex Anderson said there have been issues with vaping even at the middle school, but having Camplese and others come in to educate students, and having the juvenile court, have helped to push back against the vaping trend. “We’ve been doing a lot to educate our staff,” Anderson said.
The Ashtabula County Health Department has done presentations for the entire student body at Geneva Middle School to try and educate children on the risks, Anderson said.
“As a school district. we realize that this is a serious health issue for our students,” Geneva Superintendent Eric Kujala said. “We will continue to look for ways to educate our students on the dangers and potential health risks of e-cigarettes and vaping.”
Many of the administrators said that parents need to be involved in their children’s lives, and educate themselves so that they know what a potential ENDS looks like.
“Talking to kids, they say more and more people are doing it.” Jefferson High School Principle Jeremy Huber said.
Huber recounted conversations with several students where the students said they would never smoke, but they would vape.
“Parents need to know this is an issue,” Huber said.
In many of the schools in the county, administrators say, citations for vaping have come down in early 2019, but no one was comfortable with the level of vaping in the student body.
“Vaping is more prevalent (in middle schools) than cigarettes were,” Scott Anservitz, Principle of Lakeside Junior High School, said.
Anservitz urged caution for people who may end up using an ENDS. “We really don’t know what it does to the body.”