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Queens Chronicle

HEALTH & FITNESS Number of students vaping on the rise

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Posted: Thursday, September 19, 2019 10:30 am

The news of a sixth vaping-related death nationwide coincided with a Sept. 10 report that thousands of city middle school students are using electronic cigarettes.

“It’s alarming,” city Health and Mental Hygiene Commissioner Dr. Oxiris Barbot told NY1. “The fact that high school students are now three times as likely to smoke e-cigarettes than they are tobacco cigarettes is indication that we’re on the verge of losing the gains that we’ve made over the last 10 years in terms of freeing people from a lifetime of addiction.”

In the wake of the news that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is investigating more than 450 cases of lung disease believed to be triggered by vaping — with a seventh death reported Tuesday — politicians are taking action.

President Trump said he would seek to ban the sale of flavored vaping products. Gov. Cuomo signed into law a bill that will see students warned about the dangers of e-cigarettes, vaping and liquid nicotine as part of its tobacco control and prevention in schools. Cuomo also announced a ban on all flavored e-cigarettes, citing a concern that they lead young people to become hooked on nicotine. The state Public Health and Health Planning Council voted for the ban Tuesday and must renew it in 90 days.

The state banned the sale of e-cigarettes to minors in 2012. Four years later, the federal government did the same.

The CDC reported a heavy increase in the use of tobacco products among youth from 2017 to 2018. In 2018, more than 4 million high school students used tobacco products, a 78 percent increase, according to the Food and Drug Administration. There were also 840,000 middle school students using them.

Leah Ranney, who works at the University of North Carolina on tobacco intervention programs, wrote that in 2011, 1.5 percent of high school students reported e-cigarette usage in the previous 30 days. In 2018, the number was 20.8 percent.

Michael Blaha of Johns Hopkins Medicine wrote that vaping is less harmful than traditional smoking but still bad for your health, with the highly addictive nicotine the primary agent in both regular cigarettes and e-cigarettes. He also noted e-cigarettes have a lower per-use cost than traditional ones and that vape cartridges are often made with flavors such as apple pie and watermelon, which appeal to teenagers.

People have also been vaping THC, the chemical responsible for most of marijuana’s mind-altering effects, often with cannabis oils instead of e-liquids.

Vaping THC can be done without detection because it does not produce the smell that emerges when smoking it. But when people vape rather than smoke marijuana, they tend to consume even higher concentrations of THC, according to the Center on Addiction.

There’s another danger as well. An Associated Press investigation found some operators are cashing in on the popularity of CBD — a compound extracted from the cannabis plant that can treat ailments without getting users high — by substituting cheap and illegal synthetic marijuana for natural CBD in vapes and even edibles such as gummy bears.

“It’s Russian roulette,” James Neal-Kabaick, director of Flora Research Laboratories, which tested a number of products reporters brought to him, told the Associated Press.

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