Greenwich health educator warns teens of dangers of e-cigarettes
By Robert Marchant and Amanda Cuda Published 12:00 am EDT, Sunday, September 23, 2018
GREENWICH — It’s easy to find young people using e-cigarettes in Greenwich and elsewhere.
A national education program has begun to tackle the issue.
“It’s a huge problem in Greenwich,” said Diane DeMain, a nurse and educator affiliated with Greenwich Hospital.
DeMain goes into Greenwich High School regularly for her work as a health-educator, and she gets an earful about “vaping in the bathroom.”
“They complain about it and wonder what can be done about,” DeMain said.
Vaping is aimed at young people and adolescents, she said. “All these different flavors they have.
“But it’s still smoking,” DeMain said.
She has come across kids in town who have experimented with tobacco or e-cigarettes in the sixth, seventh and eight grades.
E-cigarettes are unhealthy and habit-forming, the nurse said. “They thought it would be a way to stop smoking, and it’s making smoking more prevalent,” she said.
A cancer specialist and parent of high schoolers, Dr. Christopher Iannuzzi knows that e-cigarettes are a serious problem among the teen set.
“E-cigarettes has essentially become an epidemic,” said Iannuzzi, chairman of oncology at St. Vincent’s Medical Center in Bridgeport. “My own kids tell that, in high school, kids use e-cigarettes all the time. I don’t think kids are aware of the true dangers of these products.”
Thus, he applauded the recent announcement that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration was launching “The Real Cost Youth E-Cigarette Prevention Campaign,” targeting the nearly 10.7 million youth ages 12 to 17 who have used e-cigarettes or are open to trying them.
The campaign will feature hard-hitting advertising on digital and social media sites popular among teens, as well as placing posters with e-cigarette prevention messages in high schools across the nation.
“E-cigarettes have become an almost ubiquitous — and dangerous — trend among youth that we believe has reached epidemic proportions,” Dr. Scott Gottlieb, commissioner of the FDA, said in a news release. “This troubling reality is prompting us to take even more forceful actions to stem this dangerous trend, including revisiting our compliance policy that extended the compliance dates for manufacturers of certain e-cigarettes, including flavored e-cigarettes, to submit applications for premarket authorization.”
Flavors are one component that makes e-cigarettes appealing to children, Gottlieb said. The aim of the new FDA campaign is to “snap teens out of their ‘cost-free’ mentality regarding e-cigarette use,” he said.
Iannuzzi said the idea behind the campaign is intriguing, and it sounds like it could be successful.
“I think people have the impression that, because these aren’t real cigarettes, they aren’t harmful,” he said. “I think educating kids about the real risks can be very helpful.”
With its tagline, “Know the Real Cost of Vaping,” the campaign’s message is that using e-cigarettes puts users at risk for addiction and other health consequences — just like smoking “real” cigarettes.
The idea is to let young people know that nicotine can rewire the brain to crave more nicotine.
Other messages highlight that e-cigarettes can contain dangerous chemicals such as acrolein, a chemical that can cause irreversible lung damage; formaldehyde, a cancer-causing chemical; and toxic metal particles, like chromium, lead and nickel, which can be inhaled into the lungs.
The ads will run on YouTube, Spotify, Pandora, Facebook and Instagram, as well as “The Real Cost” campaign website. Posters also will be placed in at least 10,000 high school bathrooms, and additional materials for students and educators will be distributed to schools.
Gottlieb said most of the posters will be placed in high school bathrooms — a place where students are most likely to face pressure to use nicotine products.
The FDA has taken action over the past several months to target the illegal sales of e-cigarettes to youth, as well as the kid-friendly marketing and appeal of the products.
Last week, the FDA issued more than 1,300 warning letters and fines to retailers who illegally sold JUUL and other e-cigarette products to minors during a nationwide undercover blitz of brick-and-mortar and online stores this summer.
The agency last week also issued letters to five major e-cigarette manufacturers whose products — JUUL, Vuse, MarkTen, blu e-cigs, and Logic — were sold to kids during the enforcement blitz asking them to submit to FDA within 60 days plans describing how they will address the widespread youth access and use of their products.
If they fail to do so, the FDA could require those brands to remove some or all of their flavored products from the market until they meet all of their obligations under the law.
“The Real Cost” Youth E-Cigarette Prevention Campaign is a nearly $60 million effort funded by user fees collected from the tobacco industry.