Health professionals are teaming up with schools to prevent the use of e-cigarettes.
That move comes after a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention study found that e-cigarette use among middle and high school students had tripled from 2013 to 2014.
“They’ve been marketed as cool, especially with the youth," Public Educator for the Knox County Health Department Kerri Thompson said. “It’s especially concerning because middle schoolers, youth in general, your brain is still developing, so they’re at a vulnerable time for habits, definitely nicotine addiction.”
Thompson said the study showed more than 3 million middle and high school students vaping at least once within the last 30 days of taking the survey.
“They’re getting them from friends; it can be an older brother; it could be a parent," Thompson said. "There’s a lot of misconceptions out there, so parents think that it’s just water vapor, which it is not just water vapor, so they’ll purchase them for their child, not knowing the truth about them.”
The FDA finalized new rules on August 1 to extend its regulatory authority over vape shops, including e-cigarette use with other tobacco products.
Those regulations require vape shops to include health warnings on their products, as well as not allowing products to be sold to people under 18 years old.
eVape Lounge Owner Seth Barber said, despite the new rules, his shop has always stayed vigilant about keeping its products in the right hands.
“We have a sign on the door that says no one under 18 is allowed inside without adult supervision," Barber said. “On Jan. 1, 2015, it was law in Tennessee that I could not sell to minors. We opened in March 2014, and that was policy from day one.”
He said the health study may be misleading due to the type of questioning, and who may be taking the survey.
“Their statistics say if I don’t like broccoli, but I had one piece of broccoli the other day, I’m a broccoli eater by their statistics," he said. "Doesn’t mean that I actually do it regularly, but that’s how they run their statistics.”
But the health department wants to keep kids from trying e-cigarettes, or any tobacco product, even once. It's working to spread the word through a new global program called "CATCH My Breath."
Thompson implemented the program in May for grades 6 through 8 at Knox County Schools.
“It was six lessons, 30 minutes each," Thompson said. "It talked about the facts about e-cigarettes. They learned about the false advertisements that are out there about those products and then how they can resist peer pressure and say no.”
After being one of 26 sites to test the pilot program, Thompson said the health department has gone a step further, distributing materials to Knox County teachers for a new, but similar program to be taught called "Unfiltered."
It will cover traditional tobacco, smokeless tobacco, and electronic devices. Thompson said teachers can start using the curriculum this fall.
Knox County Schools does not allow e-cigarette use on its campuses.
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