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CFR debunks vaping myths

Talbot: Vapor produced by e-cigarettes contains harmful substances

With youth vaping increasing at an accelerated rate, agencies like Community & Family Resources are working to educate critical members of the public — parents and youth alike — on the dangers they say the alternative to conventional cigarettes pose.

“It’s easier for someone to get addicted to nicotine than heroin; the threshold to trigger addiction is much lower,” said Katie Talbot, outpatient addiction treatment counselor for Community & Family Resources in Clarion. “The younger I can get someone hooked on to a substance, the more likely I’m going to have them as a customer for the rest of their lives.”

Educating the public has been somewhat of an uphill battle on a device marketed as a “healthier” alternative to conventional cigarettes, though Talbot said Monday at the Fort Dodge Public Library that they’re anything but healthy.

In the last year alone, vaping among high schoolers has increased by 78%, according to studies cited by the Food and Drug Administration. About 20% of high schoolers in youth surveys said they had used an e-cigarette like a Juul, the flashdrive-like device that is easily concealable and can be charged via a USB port. That number is up from 11.7% the year before. Those numbers do not include students in middle school.

Making the trend more prevalent is an estimate that contends that e-cigarette advertisements reach about four in five youth.

Vapes or e-cigarettes are modules that can vary in size and shape, from a traditional cigarette shape to the size of a computer mouse, or bigger. They work by heating up a nicotine liquid into an aerosol that can be ingested, often called a vapor.

Agencies like CFR are working to let the public know that the vapor they produce is not a harmless steam, but contains ultrafine particles, cancer-causing chemicals like formaldehyde and diacetyl, as well as toxic metal particles like nickel, tin or lead.

For teens whose brains and lungs are still developing, public health agencies say that nicotine is altering the next generation’s brain chemistry, disrupting brain development to interject impulsivity and other traits that can lead to high-risk behavior, as well as becoming potential cigarette customers later on.

That might be why big tobacco companies like R.J. Reynolds, the maker of Camel cigarettes, and Phillip Morris, the maker of Marlboro, have their own e-cigarette brands like Blu and MarkTen.

Other concerns include the fact that vaping is no longer just about tobacco or nicotine: marijuana and THC derivatives are now widely available for use in vape mods. (THC, the acronym for tetrahydrocannibinol, is the psychoactive element in marijuana that delivers its high.)

Many illicit substances available in “pods” for these devices have been linked to more recent epidemics of lung injuries.

From August 2019 to February 18, 60 cases of such severe lung disease or injuries were reported; 46 were related to illicit THC vaping, according to the Iowa Department of Public Health.

CFR can help provide resources for quitting vaping and smoking.

For more information, visit cfrhelps.org.

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