Column: Keep fruity vaping, smoking from kids
There is a vaping epidemic in Hawaii where children as young as elementary schoolers are obtaining and smoking electronic cigarettes.
Mahalo for reading the Honolulu Star-Advertiser!
You're reading a premium story. Read the full story with our Print & Digital Subscription.
Already a subscriber? Log in now to continue reading this story.
There is a vaping epidemic in Hawaii where children as young as elementary schoolers are obtaining and smoking electronic cigarettes. A common misconception about e-cigarettes is that they are a safe alternative to smoking actual tobacco cigarettes. In actuality, they are far from safe. Not only do most e-cigarette liquids contain nicotine, but they also contain harmful toxins and other unknown ingredients not approved by the Federal Drug Administration.
Vapers are also able to lace marijuana, cocaine and methamphetamine into the liquids. To put this in perspective, the amount of nicotine used in one e-cig is equivalent to about a pack of cigarettes. Because of this, I would like to request your support of House Bill 276, banning flavored tobacco, including e-cigarette products in Hawaii.
Baldwin High School’s Peer Education Program (PEP) is made up of high schoolers from grades 10-12. For the 2018 National Student Safety Program Conference, Baldwin representatives were encouraged by members of the state Coalition for a Tobacco-Free Hawaii to address this epidemic as a high priority because of the increasing youth-user rates.
Hawaii has some of the highest rates of vaping in the country, with 25 percent of high school students and 15 percent of middle school students reporting that they had vaped in the past 30 days. There is even a reported case of an elementary schooler fixing broken vapes for profit.
A Baldwin survey was conducted with approximately equal numbers of males and females, to use in our 808NoVape campaign. Out of the 96 Baldwin high summer school students, we found that 81 percent believed that e-cigs are unsafe, yet 57 percent of them have tried them despite the known harms. This shows that knowledge alone is not enough to keep them safe.
Moreover, flavored tobacco products are not being regulated properly. The liquids come in many flavors of candy and fruit and are sometimes packaged in brighter colors used to target a younger audience — a tactic that has been used for decades to promote alcohol and cigarettes.
A few liquid ingredients aside from nicotine found in many e-liquids include formaldehyde, diacetyl and isoprene. Formaldehyde is used to preserve dead bodies or organs from decomposing. Diacetyl is a buttery flavored chemical that was used in microwaveable popcorn; reportedly, breathing in too much diacetyl can cause popcorn lung, a condition that scars the air sacs and destroys the lungs. Isoprene is fragrance used in air fresheners. These fragrances can disrupt your endocrine system, creating a hormonal imbalance. This may delay puberty and cause unwanted physical changes.
About 81 percent of kids nationwide use a flavored tobacco product as their introduction to tobacco, including vaping; 90 percent of current users started by the age of 18. Among users, it was also found that 1 out of 13 would die early because of vaping and can acquire asthma, cancer and even popcorn lung.
We don’t need candy or fruity flavored tobacco to entice youth into starting a potentially life-long addiction to nicotine. I hope that these factors are enough to make the change to stop this epidemic in using flavored tobacco products.