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St. Lucie County Spotlights the Youth Vaping Epidemic for Tobacco Free Florida Week

By Arlease Hall

April 23, 2019

The federal government declared youth vaping, or e-cigarette use, a nationwide epidemic. In light of these concerns and the misinformation surrounding this topic, the Bureau of Tobacco Free Florida and Tobacco Free Partnership of St. Lucie are helping educate parents, educators, pediatricians and partners on what they need to know about vaping and youth. This year’s Tobacco Free Florida Week, April 22–28, is themed E-Epidemic: Vaping and Youth.

The most popular e-cigarette brand is JUUL,
1,2 a device shaped like a USB drive that is available in a variety of flavors and easy to conceal. In fact, youth are using JUUL devices inside school bathrooms and classrooms.3,4,5

Here are the facts:

Youth vaping has increased dramatically across the country and in Florida. In 2018, about 25% of Florida high school students reported current use of electronic vaping – a 58% increase compared to 2017.
6 In St. Lucie County,14.8% of middle and high school students reported current use of electronic vaping in 2018.7

Youth are vaping at much higher rates compared to adults. One in four Florida high school students are vaping.8 Only about 4% of Florida adults are vaping.9

The long-term health effects of e-cigarettes are still unknown. E-cigarette devices heat a liquid – usually containing nicotine, flavorings, and other chemicals – and produce an aerosol. This aerosol, aka “vapor,” is NOT water. Some of the ingredients in e-cigarette aerosol could also be harmful to the lungs in the long-term, according to the CDC. For example, some e-cigarette flavorings may be safe to eat but not to inhale because the gut can process more substances than the lungs.10,11

E-cigarettes, including JUUL, typically contain nicotine, which is highly addictive.12 Youth may be more sensitive to nicotine and feel dependent on nicotine sooner compared to adults.13,14,15 According to the manufacturer, a single JUUL pod (the “liquid” refill) contains as much nicotine as a pack of 20 regular cigarettes.16 JUUL uses nicotine salts, which can allow high levels of nicotine to be inhaled more easily and with less irritation.17

The brain continues to develop until the early to mid-20s and the developing brain is more vulnerable to the negative effects of nicotine. The effects include reduced impulse control, deficits in attention and cognition, and mood disorders. Using nicotine in adolescence may also increase risk for future addiction to other drugs.18

Evidence suggests that youth who use e-cigarettes may be at greater risk of starting to smoke regular cigarettes.19,20,21,22

“The increase utilization in youth vaping has become an alarming public health threat in St. Lucie County,” said Serena DeFrank, Tobacco Prevention Specialist “The Tobacco Free Partnership and Students Working Against Tobacco of St. Lucie are committed to addressing these concerns locally and we want parents and educators in our communities to know that Tobacco Free Florida is a trusted resource for credible and accurate information about the youth vaping epidemic.” Parents and educators should advise youth of the dangers of nicotine; discourage youth tobacco use in any form, including e-cigarettes; and set a positive example by being tobacco free themselves. Tobacco Free Florida is taking steps to educate Floridians about this troubling epidemic through social media campaigns and an educational blog post, which can be found at tobaccofreeflorida.com/epidemic.

About Tobacco Free Florida
The Florida Department of Health’s Tobacco Free Florida campaign is a statewide cessation and prevention campaign funded by Florida’s tobacco settlement fund. Since the program began in 2007, more than 212,000 Floridians have successfully quit using one of Tobacco Free Florida's free tools and services. There are now approximately 451,000 fewer adult smokers in Florida than there was 10 years ago, and the state has saved $17.7 billion in health care costs.[xxiii] To learn more about Tobacco Free Florida’s Quit Your Way services, visit www.tobaccofreeflorida.com or follow the campaign on Facebook at www.facebook.com/TobaccoFreeFlorida or on Twitter at www.twitter.com/tobaccofreefla.

Editor’s Note:
The Bureau of Tobacco Free Florida and Tobacco Free Partnership of St. Lucie are charged with addressing tobacco products, but we feel it is important to note that e-cigarette devices, including JUUL and products that resemble JUUL, can be used to deliver marijuana. Our information and resources focus on e-cigarette devices that deliver nicotine.