Barbara Bridgwater

Barbara Bridgwater

Most of you have heard or read the words JUUL, vaping, e-cigarettes. These words can signify a drastic impact on our young people!

The U.S. Surgeon General describes e-cigarettes as “battery-operated devices that heat a liquid and convert it into an aerosol, which is then inhaled and delivers nicotine, flavors, and other chemicals to its user.” They are also known as “e-cigs”, “vapes”, and “Juuls”, “e-hookahs”, “mods” and “vape pens.” Some e-cigarettes are pod based, i.e., the liquid is contained in a pod which is inserted into the device. Others have a reservoir which can be filled with a liquid. Manufacturing of the liquid, whether in pod form or in a refill bottle is unregulated. And worse, some people, youth and adults, make and then smoke their own concoctions! Seems a recipe for disaster.

Vaping/JUULing/smoking e-cigs is especially attractive to young people – and I mean high school and middle school students!

Some key facts you must know:

ALL pod-based e-cigarettes, JUUL and its knockoff competition, contain nicotine.

Pod based products have a higher concentration of nicotine than many other e-cigarettes.

Youth nicotine exposure affects learning, memory, attention span and more.

The pods provide approximately 200 puffs each, about the same as an entire pack of cigarettes. Some teens report using an entire pod on the way to school.

A 4-pack of pods (approximately $15.99) is cheaper than 4 packs of cigarettes

Data from the 2019 National Youth Tobacco Survey show that 31.2% of high school students and 12.5% of middle school students — a total of 6.2 million young people — are using some type of tobacco product, the highest rate among high school students in 19 years. E-cigarettes, such as JUUL and its many copycats, are overwhelmingly driving the increase. High schoolers, 27.5%, and middle schoolers, 10.5%, reported current use of e-cigarettes, meaning they vaped at least once in the past 30 days. There are 1.6 million middle and high school students reported that they vape at least 20 days a month, signaling a growing youth addiction crisis.

JUUL appeals to young people who were not at risk of starting to smoke. In 2019, more than half of all respondents aged 15-17 who had ever used JUUL had never used combustible tobacco before.

Many of you may remember 1998 when Big Tobacco reached a settlement with 46 states, resulting in stricter regulations constraining the ways companies could market cigarettes to youth. JUUL, e-cigarettes and vapes do not have the same restrictions creating the opportunity to ramp up marketing to youth: using social media and other influencers to depict young people relaxing and having fun with their favorite product – appealing specifically to youth. JUUL further targets children by funding summer camps, visiting schools and paying community events to distribute their materials.

Big Tobacco currently spends $284.5 million a year to advertise right here in Indiana! Imagine the return they must be getting that allows them the freedom to spend that much on advertising – and at the cost of health and well-being for so many of our young people!

Finally, tools and mechanisms for vaping can be very deceptive, designed to look like flash drivers, inhalers, key fobs, hoodies – yes, the ties on the hoodie are devices through which the user vapes or “smokes.” The user can also be quite discreet, exhaling into a jacket, sweater or other clothing which absorbs most of the “cloud” making it nearly invisible, rather than the “big cloud” such as you may have seen on TV. This deceptive factor makes it possible to vape, smoke, and JUUL in public places, including schools without detection.

Do you want to help combat this issue? I am hosting a meeting for young people within the next two to three weeks for teens who will help engage, educate and empower other young people about the true story of JUUL and e-cigs. Teens can have a powerful and positive impact on other teens. Can you identify teens who might want to be a part of this effort? Contact me at barbara@youthcount.com or at 502-876-2272 (call or text) for details so that I can include them in this effort. This opportunity will offer them volunteer and leadership opportunities while also helping other young people.

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