Youth vaping, or e-cigarette use, has been declared a nationwide epidemic by the federal government.

In an effort to decrease vaping in Volusia County, the Florida Department of Health in Volusia and the Bureau of Tobacco Free Florida continues to encourage youth not to be a lab rat for device makers.

In recognition of Tobacco Free Florida Week April 22-28, the department also is calling on parents to get up-to-date on tobacco use. The most popular e-cigarette brand is JUUL, 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.

To ensure the community is aware of the facts about e-cigarettes, Tobacco Free Florida is a trusted resource for credible and accurate information about the youth vaping epidemic.

TFF highlights several facts to correct misinformation surrounding vaping:

•Youth vaping has increased dramatically across the country and in Florida. In 2018, about 25% of Florida high school students reported using e-cigarettes, up 58% increase from 2017.

•In Volusia County, nearly 30% of youth ages 11-17 reported they had tried electronic vaping in 2018 while more than 18% percent reported they were using the devices.

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

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, or “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.

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

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.

•Evidence suggests youth who use e-cigarettes may be at greater risk of starting to smoke regular cigarettes.

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.

Patricia Boswell, administrator

Department of Health-Volusia

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