The Pennsylvania Department of Health has launched a campaign to keep children from vaping, LNP’s Heather Stauffer reported June 14. State Health Secretary Dr. Rachel Levine urges parents to be aware that e-cigarettes “are not a safe alternative to smoking for their children.” Data from the 2017 Pennsylvania Youth Survey showed that 11% of Lancaster County students — and about 20% of high school seniors — vaped at least once within a 30-day period.
U.S. Surgeon General Jerome Adams issued a rare and severe advisory on the dangers of e-cigarettes in December. He cited the “importance of protecting our children from a lifetime of nicotine addiction and associated health risks” and the urgent need for action “to protect the health of our nation’s young people.”
We applauded Adams for taking that uncommon step, and we now applaud Pennsylvania for taking its own measures in the fight against vaping.
It’s well past time.
We’ve called for action on this issue for years. In 2015, we wrote: “Concern is growing over the rising popularity of e-cigarettes among young people at a time when cigarette smoking is declining.”
Definitions are important in understanding this threat. The state Department of Health noted: “Most e-cigarettes, also known as e-cigs, e-hookahs, mods, vape pens, vapes or electronic nicotine delivery systems (ENDS) contain nicotine, which is highly addictive.” There are documented health risks associated with nicotine, and, additionally, multiple studies suggest that teens who vape are more likely to try regular cigarettes.
The surgeon general says the potent buzz of e-cigarettes can promote nicotine dependence after just a few hits. There is no such thing as a harmless vaping experience; young people who vape tend to become addicted.
And thus their long-term health is jeopardized. As Levine notes: “We only have one brain, and our brains continue to develop until we are about 25 years old. Nicotine found in e-cigarettes can harm adolescent brain development and decrease respiratory health.”
Vaping isn’t cool, despite the way it’s marketed by some companies. Until recently, “flavored” e-cig pods were widely advertised and made available in stores.
The recent surge in usage, The Associated Press reported, can be attributed “to newer versions of e-cigarettes, like those by Juul Labs Inc. that resemble computer flash drives and can be used discreetly.” A West Virginia high school student told the AP that her classmates “can put it in their sleeve or their pocket. They can do it wherever, whenever. ... They can do it in class if they’re sneaky about it.”
We hope e-cigarette companies can be further discouraged from making and marketing vaping devices that especially cater to teenagers’ innate desire to do things that are “sneaky” or “hip.”
While the 2017 Pennsylvania survey, according to LNP’s Stauffer, found that e-cigarette usage is lower in Lancaster County than in most other parts of the state, the numbers here — 1 in 5 high school seniors — are still deeply disturbing. And it’s likely worse than that. Another survey, Stauffer notes, “suggests the portion of young vapers may have risen significantly since the 2017 survey.”
So what can we do?
Pennsylvania’s multimedia campaign seeks to help parents “begin the conversation about vaping with their children.” The state offers these suggestions:
— Set a good example by being tobacco-free. Those who use tobacco and need free help quitting can visit smokefree.gov or call 1-800-QUIT-NOW.
— Talk to children and teenagers about why e-cigarettes are harmful.
— Make an appointment for teenagers with a health care provider so that they can talk to a medical professional about the health risks of e-cigarettes.
— Speak with teachers and school administrators about enforcing tobacco-free school grounds policies and tobacco prevention curriculums.
— Encourage young people to learn the facts and get tips for quitting tobacco products by visiting the surgeon general’s e-cigarette website (e-cigarettes.surgeongeneral.gov).
Trump and the press
We must say it yet again. If President Donald Trump is going to continue using dangerous rhetoric, we will continue to push back.
At the Group of 20 meeting in Osaka, Japan, on Friday, Trump “launched into another screed against the press” in front of Russian President Vladimir Putin, The Washington Post stated in an editorial.
“Get rid of them,” Trump said, referring to the reporters covering the meeting. “Fake news is a great term, isn’t it? You don’t have this problem in Russia, but we do.”
Putin — in what the Post termed “a rare public remark in English” — replied to Trump, “We also have. It’s the same.”
According to the Committee to Protect Journalists, 42 journalists have been killed in Russia since 2000, the year after Putin took power. “Of those 42 people, the data indicates 26 of them were murdered,” stated the digital news site Mediaite.
Trump’s call to “get rid of” reporters came on the one-year anniversary of the deaths of five staff members at the Capital Gazette, a newspaper group in Annapolis, Maryland. They were fatally shot by a gunman with a grudge against that newspaper.
Amnesty International had this to say on Twitter: “For a sitting U.S. President to articulate the position that violence against the free press is a laughing matter is nothing short of outrageous. Independent journalists in Russia contend with blackmail, harassment, beatings, imprisonment, torture, and in some cases death. While the world looks in awe at their courage, President Trump mocks their work. His words are a black mark on America’s record on press freedom.”
The president’s statements make life more dangerous for journalists here and around the world. We implore him to stop using such inflammatory and divisive rhetoric.