FDA calls youth vaping an epidemic

Why local health experts say it's a concern

Youth vaping a national epidemic why and what is being done locally

POCATELLO, Idaho (KIFI/KIDK) - On Wednesday, the FDA declared youth vaping a national epidemic. The reason is because the FDA feels it is a growing problem that poses a serious health risk to youth.

E-cigarettes are flashy, they're trendy and they come in thousands of different flavors, many of which are sweet and candy-like.

Those are just a few reasons why e-cigarettes are becoming more and more popular among adolescents.

E-cigs and liquid-based nicotine products first came on the scene because they were considered a better smoking alternative for adults who were trying to quit. It was thought of as almost a healthier option.

"But when it comes to teens, absolutely not," said health education specialist Traci Lambson. “Nicotine addiction is probably the biggest concern, especially with adolescents or anyone up to 25 using nicotine, it can affect the brain development. Also, we’ve found with e-cigarettes, you have a greater increase of having a heart attack - that is for even teens. Also, there have been some research, some case studies, that has shown a diagnosis of popcorn lung.”

Popcorn lung is at type of serious lung disease caused by a chemical called diacetyl, commonly used for flavoring. But diacetyl as an aerosol, rather than being ingested, has been shown to cause the disease. 

Lambson said another problem is that nicotine is often a gateway drug and leads to addictions of other drugs too. E-cigs especially can cause that addiction quicker because they have higher amounts of nicotine than most regular cigarettes. 

According to the 2017 national youth tobacco survey, more than 2 million middle school high school and college students use e-cigs or some form of liquid-based nicotine products.

Lambson said as far as high school students specifically, she definitely sees the usage. 

“What I've seen as far as youths, I teach tobacco cessation classes in high schools, and a majority of the students that come through are either already using e-cigs or they were previously using e-cigs but I would say, more times than not, they’ve experimented with an e-cig," Lambson described. And I think, compared to other years, we’re seeing more usage of e-cigs than traditional cigarettes.”

A 2017 youth risk assessment survey backs that up. It shows that in total, about 59 percent of high school students in Idaho were found to use e-cigs or some form of electronic vaping products. Of the same survey study, just 36 percent were found to smoke only traditional cigarettes. 

In the assessment survey done the State Board of Education, it shows 8.7% of 9th graders use vaping products, 12.2% of 10th graders use them, 16.2% of 11th graders do, along with 22.3% of 12th graders. 

For those who smoke regular cigarettes, 5.8% are 9th graders, 7.6% are 10th graders, 9.5% are in 11th grade and 14.9% are in 12th grade. 

While the FDA is working at the federal level to improve guidelines and regulations to keep kids from vaping, local shops are also doing they best they can to stop the sales to minors at a local level. 

Outlaw Vapor in Pocatello said Idaho law states that anyone who looks under the age of 27 needs to be ID'd. But Ben Bosworth, the owner, said they ID every single sale - no matter how old the customer looks. 

"We have one guy who is 85 and we ID him every single time he comes in," Bosworth said. 

But that's not the only step the shop takes to try and keep e-cigs out of minors' hands. 

“If we see a car full of kids pull up and you can tell they’re talking amongst each other, and one person comes in and tries to make a purchase of two or three different items, then we shut the sale down," Bosworth described the shop's policies. "That’s called a straw purchase. If we know that it’s going to be purchased for a minor, we shut it down. Or even if we have a little bit of a feeling that it’s going to be for a minor, we shut it down. Same with our online sales as well, we require that an ID gets sent with each and every purchase, along with that person holding their picture next to their face so we can verify on our online sales as well.”

Bosworth added that some other vape shops in Pocatello, like Vape Tech, have similar policies. 

For more information on what parents need to know and can do to help their kids, or for more information and statistics on e-cigarette use, there is a lot of information here on the CDC's website. 


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