By Supervisor George Hoehmann
Although the number of adult cigarette smokers continues to steadily decline, it may be too soon to celebrate this trend as a new epidemic is taking over in its place. E-cigarettes were first introduced to the public in 2003 and have been rapidly evolving and increasing in popularity ever since. There are still far too many unanswered questions regarding the long-term health effects that e-cigarettes pose. Recently, we have seen in the news more illnesses and even deaths linked to vaping.
The dominant e-cigarette taking over the market today is the Juul, a sleek, small e-cigarette that resembles a flashdrive. The Juul works by inserting a “pod” of liquid nicotine into the Juul and when inhaled, the pod heats up creating an aerosol which is inhaled by the user. Juuls have been especially popular among teenagers and young adults in large part because of their small size and easy ability to be concealed around others. Even when in plain sight, it’s hard to identify the small device as an e-cigarette rather than a flash drive, and the vapor is hard to see or smell. This means that even though the legal age to purchase e-cigarettes has been raised to 21 and drug use is strictly forbidden on school property, youth rarely get caught.
Beyond being easy to hide, Juuls also attract youth by directly targeting them in marketing and product design. Juul pods are available in several appealing flavors including mango, mint, cucumber and fruit, and the company itself has advertised with promotions filled with cheerful colors and enthusiastic young people.
Despite this cheerful marketing, “Juuling” and similar products are really quite dangerous. With 20 times as much nicotine in a Juul as a standard cigarette, developing brains can be seriously harmed by the exposure. This much nicotine is also quite addictive, meaning users are at increased risk of using other drugs. Even without the nicotine, the aerosols and flavors in e-cigarettes can often have dangerous particles, organic matter and metals.
Sometimes marketed as a way to wean off of traditional tobacco use, e-cigarettes have sadly proved to be an addictive gateway rather than a safe exit. With one in every five high schoolers in 2018 using e-cigarettes, e-cigarettes have proved dangerously addictive, and are being abused in the classrooms, hallways, and restrooms of school campuses. Inhaling nicotine through e-cigarettes is already dangerous, and it’s not hard to transition from a Juul to an e-cigarette product that delivers other drugs, like marijuana. Even more, research has shown that e-cigarette use is projected to lead to increased cigarette smoking in the coming years.
Last month, the Clarkstown Police Department SMART Sales Unit, in conjunction with officers of the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (SPCC), conducted compliance checks of local businesses regarding the minimum age purchase laws for the sale of e-cigarette (vape) and alcohol products. Thirteen businesses were checked during the operation, nine were in compliance, two sold vapes to minors, and two sold vapes and alcohol to minors. Thank you to our police department for continuing to enforce the laws and protecting the children of our community.
With the clear dangers that e-cigarette use poses to the community, I urge parents, teachers, and community members to educate youth and others of the dangers of e-cigarette use. While research and awareness lags behind, these dangerous devices are flooding into public use and targeting our children. For these reasons, it’s important to keep our children aware of the serious risks of e-cigarettes, because with an educated community, our children can realize the dangers before it’s too late.