The American Heart Association is working to tackle a “surge in vaping” among students, and Johnston High School is just one of the institutions looking to help.
Students Against Destructive Decisions, or SADD, president Sarah Monahan and advisor Greg Russo spoke to the Sun Rise last week to explore the school’s involvement in combating the growing threat of vaping through participating in Quit Lying Day.
Quit Lying Day – a nationwide campaign to address vaping companies – took place last Thursday, Jan. 16, and 130 schools across the country participated by posting on social media and encouraging others to become more acquainted with the potential effects of vaping.
According to the AHA, e-cigarette companies – most notably market leader Juul, of which Phillip Morris parent company Altria Group owns 35 percent – “are targeting youth and addicting a new generation to nicotine, reversing decades-long progress in reducing youth tobacco use.”
The AHA’s fact sheet also notes that there is evidence e-cigarettes could be a gateway to other drugs and traditional cigarettes.
“To address this dramatic rise in cigarette use, more research is needed to understand the health impact of vaping and nicotine addiction on youth,” the sheet reads. “The FDA also must strongly regulate the manufacture, sale and marketing of all tobacco products, including e-cigarettes.”
The issue is especially dire in high schools, where 25 percent of students are using e-cigarettes – a figure that is up from 10 percent two years ago.
“It’s interesting because it’s different than cigarettes. You can’t smell it and you don’t always see the smoke for it, but if you go into a bathroom, there’s a big chance you’ll see kids vaping or if you go outside of school, it’s there, it’s in classrooms sometimes,” Monahan said. “Because it’s so easy, you don't always see it. It can’t be seen by teachers as well, it’s easier for the kids to be doing it in class, so it does make it more [hidden].”
The AHA estimates that more than 5 million teens use e-cigarettes. Recent research shows flavors are more likely to motivate younger adults ages 18 to 24, which “could explain the explosive increase in e-cigarette use among youth.”
The study showed that nearly one-third of respondents cited flavors as a “major reason” they took up vaping, while adults aged 18 to 24 were almost twice as likely than those from 35 to 44 years old to point out flavors as an influence.
Rhode Island is trying to do its part, as Gov. Gina Raimondo signed an executive order last fall banning the sale of flavored e-cigarette products. SADD is joining the effort, too, as Monahan said the group brought Dan Fitzgerald from the American Lung Association down to Cherry Hill to warn if vaping’s perils.
“He really geared his presentation toward vaping because that is such a big issue in specifically high schools, and I think he presented a lot of facts that were good for the students versus just facts about smoking in general. It really targeted things that they’re interested in,” Monahan said.
The AHA also addressed the use of e-cigarettes to quit smoking, saying smokers should “first try proven pharmacological and behavior smoking cessation therapies, along with smoking cessation counseling.”
While some smokers have kicked their habit with the aid of e-cigarettes, the AHA added that they have not “proven to be effective tobacco cessation devices.”
“My goal, especially, as being the president of SADD, is to be able to educate the kids that this is similar to cigarettes, it’s not safer,” Monahan said. “It’s not an alternative, it’s dangerous and you should be doing your research. There isn’t a lot of information about this product, so you should be seriously considering what you’re doing before you do it.”