Monroe teen vaping exceeds state averages
MONROE — Vaping is on the rise among middle and high school students, prompting concern and prevention efforts among educators.
In the state’s 2016 Healthy Youth Survey, 29 percent of Monroe high school seniors answered that they had vaped in the past 30 days.
In comparison, 20 percent of Snohomish County and Washington state seniors reported vaping during that period.
The biennial study showed vaping was up among Monroe seniors compared to 2014, from 25.6 to 29.4 percent. The 2018 survey will be this fall.
The spread of the new technology was not unexpected: as e-cigarettes became cheaper and easier to access, use grew widely and quickly throughout the state.
Officials are also concerned about what students are vaping.
The report showed that one in four 10th grade students who vaped said they were vaping THC, the active, hallucinogenic chemical in cannabis.
One in 10 Monroe high school seniors stated they did not know what they were vaping when given an option list that includes flavored liquids, liquids containing nicotine or liquids containing THC.
There’s “definitely a high level of concern that has a lot to do with the perception and way vaping was originally presented as a safer alternative to smoking tobacco, and data maybe it’s not as safe as they thought it’s going to be. It does have side effects that can be deadly, leads to cancerous health risks,” said Monroe school resource officer Justin Springer.
He is also concerned about how the devices can be adapted to smoke marijuana.
Monitoring use can be difficult for parents: “at a glance, it doesn’t even look like an item used to smoke anything … so it’s kind of tricky for parents,” Springer said.
Monroe High School counselor Chris Jury has been combatting vaping through education for the past year.
Two example vape box devices. The Navy in 2017 banned almost all e-cigarette usage. Other military branches also
ban using vape devices and e-cigarettes.
He, too, is concerned about results, and he approaches the topic with a “don’t panic,” and “no scare-tactics” method.
He has made the rounds of parent groups to educate them about vaping and how innocuous but unhealthy the devices can be. One concern is that it is still too soon to know just what the long term health risks of vaping are.
Vaping liquids, also known as juice or e-juice, are not regulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. A 2018 study in the journal Pediatrics revealed five different carcinogenic
toxins in the urine of teenagers who vaped. Studies, including a February one from the John Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, showed
unsafe levels of lead resulted from use of vaping devices.
Vaping liquid is especially appealing to teenagers, and the juices come in popular flavors like gummy worms, Fruit Loops, coffee and bubblegum.
The low cost is another boon for cash-strapped teens. While one package of name brand cigarettes runs about $9, users can buy vaping pens as low as $10 to $15 and the equivalent of a carton of cigarettes worth of liquid for about $15.
While Monroe students said they vaped more than their Washington state peers, they weren’t doing it more at school.
Eight percent of Monroe 10th and 12th graders voluntarily said they vaped on campus compared to six percent of 10th graders and 10 percent 12th graders statewide.
The popularity of vaping is paired with the decline of smoking in study results. Smoking was down by 20 percent among Monroe sophomores and 31 percent among seniors.
Jury said that Monroe did a nice job including vaping in the city parks nonsmoking ordinance.
However, enforcement on vaping among youth is uncommon. The Police Department has just one record on file for the past two or three years, said police department spokeswoman Debbie
Springer said issuing a citation is difficult, as it requires catching an underage vaper in the act, but that the issue “is on everyone’s radar.”
Vaping can be done relatively discreetly. New forms of vape devices look less similar to cigarettes. One type, JUULs, even look like computer storage.
The popular JUUL models fit easily in the palm of the hand, look like USB flash drives and leave very little trace of the vapors they produce.
The Snohomish Health District has strategies for parents to keep children from vaping.
The Health District urges parents to make sure their own products are out of reach of children, and talk to their children about the consequences of nicotine addiction. They warn that even e-cigarette juice labeled nicotine free “often
still contains nicotine and can be addicting” and that vaping devices “are not a risk-free alternative to smoking traditional cigarettes.”
More information is available at www.snohd.org/Healthy-Living/Smoke-Free-Living/Vaping-Vapor-Products
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