Originally Published: November 6, 2018 3:33 p.m.
Dan Streeter, former high school teacher and principal, currently superintendent of Humboldt Unified School District, is concerned his kids and district students believe vaping is a safe alternative to smoking cigarettes.
“As a parent, I’m pretty knowledgeable,” Streeter said Monday, Nov. 5, to an audience of about 50 parents at Glassford Hill Middle School. “But there are products out there I have no idea what some are.”
In the past two months at Bradshaw Mountain High School, tobacco violations already have reached 60 percent of last year’s total offenses, he reported.
None of those offenses are from cigarette use.
“We are educating our kids about e-cigarettes. We also need to educate parents,” Streeter said.
Nikki Rosson, a parent of two teenagers and a younger child, and executive assistant with MATFORCE, told the audience she, too, is in the trenches with them. She presented a short history on e-cigarettes that hit the market, unregulated, in 2007.
In 2013, it became illegal for those younger than 18 to purchase e-cigs. By 2016, the FDA placed e-cigs under its regulations, including a requirement to add an ingredients list to the packaging. In 2018, another addition to the packaging required a statement that e-cigs contain nicotine.
Rosson said many teen users think vaping is just water and flavors. However, not only are vapers putting nicotine into their lungs, but the flavorings may contain dangerous ingredients such as diacetyl, the chemical used in microwave popcorn that causes serious lung diseases, and also toxic metals such as lead, cadmium, mercury and nickel. Some e-cigs may contain marijuana concentrates or other illicit drugs, Rosson said.
One of the most popular brands, JUUL, makes up 65 percent of the market, and “Juuling” is another term used for vaping.
A starter kit, sold on sale for about $30, contains the device, a mouthpiece, a charger, and four different flavored pods.
One pod is equal to 200 puffs or one pack of cigarettes. Pods come in many flavors, including tropical fruits, creme brulee, and birthday cake.
“Youth don’t think it’s harmful. They think, ‘Why quit? It doesn’t smell bad. It doesn’t taste bad,’ ” Rosson said, adding that marketing materials show young, casual users and a message that vaping “adds something to your life.”
Are e-cigs safer than cigarettes? Rosson showed on her PowerPoint presentation a quote, “Safer doesn’t mean they are safe,” by Brian King, Ph.D. She compared jumping out of a 10-story window or a four-story window. “Both have the same results,” she said. “They may have fewer chemicals than cigarettes, but they still have some.”
In a poll of students, more 12th-graders indicated they vaped more than once than those who used alcohol more than once. Trends show that more males than females use e-cigs.
Rosson offered tips to parents such as to talk to their children early and talk to them often about drug, alcohol and tobacco use. Practice how to say “No” when they are uncomfortable with being offered something. Set clear boundaries and consequences. And use facts in conversations. Scare tactics don’t work, she said.
In addition to MATFORCE materials, there are websites with more information: Partnership for Drug Free Kids, Center for Disease Control, and teen.smokefree.gov.
Following the presentation, Rosson showed samples of clothing and backpacks that contain hidden pockets, and several types of e-cig devices, many of which she said wouldn’t arouse recognition in most parents.