FDA Classifies Vaping as an Epidemic

Chloe Slome, Writer

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Juul, suorin, phix, vagon, box mod, dab pen, disposable vape, stiiizy, and vitasti. These are the names of just a few of the numerous vapes found in the hands of teenageers.

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, there are over over 460 brands selling e-cigarettes and more than 15,000 unique e-cigarette flavors are curated that lure in youth.

On September 12, the Food and Drug Administration (the FDA) classified vaping at an “epidemic proportion.” E-cigarette companies were then given 60 days to to prove that they can keep their devices away from minors.

The FDA first went to the popular e-cigarette company JUUL for a surprise inspection, where they seized thousand of documents mostly pertaining to the company’s sales and marketing practices.

JUUL was originally created as a supplement to cigarettes for adults, but instead has become the most popular nicotine product used by middle and high school kids, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

JUUL, with a net worth of 16 billion, has also increased sales by 641% from 2016 to 2017, and they sold 16.2 million devices in 2017.

According to CNN, JUUL Labs stated, “[We are] committed to  preventing underage use, and we want to engage with FDA, lawmakers, public health advocates and others to keep JUUL out of the hands of young people.”

According to the Youth Tobacco Study in 2017, 3.6 million middle and high school have used a tobacco product in the past 30 days.

That means up to 1 in 5 high school students and 1 in 18 middle school students used tobacco products in 2017.

“There are these products that while they say they aren’t targeted directly towards teens, I don’t know many adults that are looking for mango or strawberry or watermelon flavored nicotine products so there is this direct kind of marketing towards [students] that every teen right now is experiencing,” Keely Hafer, associate principal said.

Hafer has tried to help with the vaping issue at school through drug prevention. The school administrators are not naive to the problem, so they are dealing with drug prevention through the education of staff, parents, and students.

Last year, Hafer led vaping presentations for underclassmen to participate in and teachers over the summer learned more about the issue during a staff meeting, led by history teacher Tecia Barton, to learn about vaping.

Although e-cigarette users inhale fewer chemicals than cigarette smokers, they are taking in more nicotine. According to the FDA, the adolescent brain in particular is vulnerable to addiction which is just as equally as harmful to the growing brain as chemicals.

Science teacher Marta Wood has been kept up-to-date about vaping at PVHS and has a little more insight due to her health credential.

“As much as smoking and drugs and alcohol use is bad for you, on a young brain the effects are even stronger because the brain is still forming… you could be affecting the formation of the brain,” Wood said.

Friends, popularity, stress, anxiety, and peer pressure are all part of teenage years, but now addiction might be added to that list.

Teens need to realize that even though it seems that vapes do not have “nicotine,” it is still hidden behind these fake cotton candy and watermelon flavors.

“The danger is the lead, the zinc, the nicotine and the other components that maybe on their own might be okay but in the combination they’re deadly. And it doesn’t mean it’s going to kill someone right away but it’s the day in and day out use over time,” Barton said.

“The Real Cost” campaign by the FDA exposes the facts about vaping by exclusively showing teens.

“Flavors Hook Kids” paid for Tobacco Free CA is a commercial deploying the message of how tobacco companies were learning about the flavors your kids liked while you were too.

“Whether we are talking about marijuana, nicotine, heroin, cocaine, prescription drugs, I think it’s imperative, I think it is vital that young people, old people, and everyone in between knows exactly the pros and cons as to what they are putting in their body,” Barton said.

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FDA Classifies Vaping as an Epidemic