Saturday, November 24, 2018

Op-ed aims to inform adults about dangerous new e-cigarettes that writers say are aimed to hook a new generation on nicotine

In an effort to inform Kentucky adults about the dangers of the latest electronic cigarette devices, called mod-pods, Ben Chandler and Dr. Pat Withrow write in an op-ed for the Lexington Herald-Leader: "We encourage parents, teachers and others who work with youth to recognize them for what they are: highly effective nicotine delivery devices designed to hook a new generation."

Photo by The Sentinel-Echo, London, Ky.
Chandler is president and CEO of the Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky and Withrow is outreach director at Baptist Health Paducah.

The most popular mod-pod right now is the Juul, which looks like a large USB flash drive, and can even be plugged into a computer's USB port to charge. The authors note that knock-offs like the MarkTen Elite and the Suorin Air Pod Vaporizer are also a growing market.

Teens love them because that they are easily concealed, come in thousands of flavors (including bubble gum), don't create an odor when used, and can be personalized with "skins," which the authors call "another effective youth marketing tactic." Many of them can also be adapted to vape marijuana and other drugs.

"You may think they’ve yet to hit your home, classroom or community," they write, but add that that's likely not the case.

New data from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows that electronic cigarette use among high-school students increased 78 percent in the past year and middle-school use went up 48 percent -- increases that the authors say coincide with the introductions of the mod pods. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has called this upsurge an epidemic.

"Our concern is that the explosive popularity of these latest e-cig designs will reverse all the progress we’ve made in reducing smoking and related disease and death over the last 50 years," the authors write. "Kentucky already remains behind the rest of the nation in curbing tobacco use. So it behooves parents, teachers and others who work with kids to understand this dangerous new trend."

Chandler and Withrow explaining exactly what these mod-pod e-cigarettes are: battery-powered tobacco devices that heat nicotine, with pods that contain propylene glycol, other chemicals and the flavorings. When heated, the combination of nicotine, particulate matter, heavy metals and gas vapor creates an aerosol. This aerosol is inhaled into the lungs and quickly circulates into the brain.

A Juul pod contains the same amount of nicotine as in a pack of 20 cigarettes (200 puffs) -- though most teens report that they don't know there is nicotine in these devices. Multiple studies also show that kids who vape are more likely use regular cigarettes.

"We believe there’s no reason to put nicotine in these devices except to create new customers who, quite literally, can’t quit," Chandler and Withrow write. "In addition to being addictive, nicotine and other substances harm the developing brain which continues to mature until the age of 25."

The authors note that the experience is "much smoother and more addictive than previous generations of e-cigs and vapes." In fact, a Truth Initiative study found that 80 percent of 15 to 24-year-olds who try Juul continue to use the product. Use of these mod-pods has become so pervasive that teens now say they are "Juuling" instead of "vaping," they write.

They conclude: "Bottom line? There are absolutely no redeeming benefits for our youth to begin using nicotine e-cigarettes. So don’t be fooled. The latest e-cig devices pose significant health hazards for today’s youth."

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