E-cigarette use among youth in the United States has skyrocketed to what the U.S. Surgeon General and the U.S. Food & Drug Administration have called “epidemic” levels. We’re seeing the effects in our state and the numbers are alarming.
This health crisis can be reversed but only through a collective effort. Last month, Lexington County School District One and dozens of other school districts joined together in a class action lawsuit against JUUL, just one step in our fight against vaping in South Carolina.
We are committed to the health and well-being of the children of our community. One part of that commitment is researching to understand the risky effects our youth are facing. Another part is sharing what we know with you — the parents, teachers, counselors, caregivers of our community.
Vaping habits in SC
The 2019 South Carolina Youth Tobacco Survey revealed that 39.5% of high schoolers in South Carolina had used an e-cigarette, and 22% reported using e-cigarettes in the past 30 days. Since these numbers are self-reported many public health officials believe they may under-report the actual prevalence of e-cigarette use. On a federal level, e-cigarette use among middle and high school students more than doubled from 2017 to 2019.
Increase in disciplinary action
In Lexington District One, the number of discipline referrals due to vaping increased from 147 in the 2017–2018 school year to 358 in 2018–2019. The increase in disciplinary action also disrupts teachers’ instruction by reducing the time spent teaching, which affects all students in class.
Effects of vaping
E-cigarettes and vaping have been linked to multiple deaths and hundreds of cases of serious respiratory illnesses requiring hospitalization. Also, teen nicotine use can impair parts of the brain that control attention and learning, as well as mood and impulse control, as the brain is still developing. Teens who use e-cigarettes are nearly three times more likely to go on to smoke combustible cigarettes than their peers who don’t use any type of tobacco product. One-third will go on to try illegal substances such as marijuana.
Slow the Spread
We’ve shared what we’ve learned about the effects of vaping, but one thing we don’t know is the impact COVID-19 will have on the already risky effects. There is considerable concern of compromised pulmonary function, which can be detrimental at any age. Keeping your family and friends safe and healthy is even more important as we face a global health pandemic. Encourage your kids and peers to continue to wash their hands, wear a mask and social distance. And while you are talking about the importance of staying safe and healthy, you’re provided with a conversation starter around the negative effects of vaping.
R. Kyle Guyton, MD, FAAP