AUSTIN (KXAN) — The e-cig ‘epidemic’ has doctors and educators racing to find some way to reverse an alarming trend. Use among teenagers has risen quickly.
Last month, the Food and Drug Administration’s latest survey found use among high school students, increased by 78-percent in a year. Use among middle schoolers, jumped by almost half.
A recent push by the U.S. surgeon general has local teens doing what they can to educate their peers.
“Nicotine exposure during adolescence can uniquely harm the adolescent brain,” Dr. Jerome Adams, the U.S. Surgeon General said during a press conference on Tuesday.
Dr. Adams is now encouraging parents, teachers and schools to pay closer attention to what he calls, an epidemic
Students say e-cigarettes are rampant in central Texas classrooms. Kids as young as middle school are now exposed.
“They think its cool, their friends think its cool, peer pressure. And it just kind of becomes an epidemic,” said Blake Herrera, a Junior at Round Rock High School and the president for his class.
Teens in the Round Rock Independent School District are tackling the issue head on. 28 members of the student advisory board, from 8th to 12th grade, meet every month. Their most recent discussion included how to rid the halls of e-cigs.
“We as educators confront this on a daily basis, a weekly basis,” said Matt Groff, the principal at Round Rock High School.
The Round Rock administration stays vigilant. Dozens of electronic pens line the table, all confiscated this semester. The principal is thankful his students are keeping their friends out of trouble.
“Its good to have strong peers to educate you or stand up and say what they think is right and be a good mentor and leader,” Groff said.
And the junior class president’s stance is clear.
“You don’t need it. It’s not necessary. And that’s really my message to my fellow students,” Herrera said.
Teaching E-Cig Risks at AISD
At the Austin ISD, students in fourth and fifth grade get their first lesson in early prevention of e-cigarette exposure. High schoolers cover the topic in health classes within the alcohol and tobacco unit. Teachers also get their own lesson so they can learn what signs to look out for in students who are vaping.
The FDA is investigating 21 e-cigarette companies to find out if they’ve been marketing products illegally.
In October, the agency conducted a surprise inspection of the e-cigarette maker “JUUL’s” corporate headquarters. Federal data shows a recent surge in high school students using e-cigarettes with JUUL being the most popular brand.
Last month JUUL stopped selling most of its flavored products in convenience stores and gas stations.
How old do you have to be to buy e-cigs?
Currently, under Texas law you have to be at least 18 to buy any tobacco product or e-cigarette. However, San Antonio went a step further. In October a new ordinance went into effect, requiring tobacco and e-cig buyers be at least 21 years-old.
Medical findings on e-cigarette use
Doctors simply don’t know all the effects from e-cigs and vaping. There haven’t been enough studies.
What is certain is that nicotine can harm developing brains.
The addictive drug in tobacco products, is found in most e-cigarettes. Using nicotine as an adolescent can also increase the risk for future addiction to other drugs. There can be potentially harmful chemicals in e-cig aerosol. While there is data to say e-cigs are less harmful than traditional cigarettes and other tobacco, that doesn’t necessarily mean they are safe.