‘Rise of the e-cig and Juul’: Public health educating parents, school staff on kids vaping trends

Presentations at local high schools

Public Health Madison and Dane County is scheduling presentations called Rise of the E-Cigarette and Juul at local high schools to talk to parents and school staff about the popularity and dangers of vaping.

“Some of these devices are very sleek and discreet and can be hidden very easily by youth. So just knowing what to look for is, I think, the first step for parents to know,” said Ryan Sheahan with Public Health Madison and Dane County.

Vaping devices are often hard to spot because they are small and can be easily hidden. One is made to look like a watch, and others can be hidden in the strings of hoodies or in backpacks.

He said Juul singlehandedly led to an increase in vaping popularity among youth when they came back on the market in 2016.

“Juul contains almost twice the amount of nicotine that other vape products contain. So knowing that nicotine has a huge impact on the adolescent brain, it can rewire that brain to be more susceptible to future addictions,” said Sheahan.

Did you know vaping devices could look like watches?! ⌚️They’re even made to be hidden in hoodies and backpacks.@PublicHealthMDC wants to make sure parents know what to look for and how harmful these devices can be for kids. #news3now pic.twitter.com/vOawv2SThW

— Amanda Quintana (@AmandaQTV) October 29, 2019

As of October 22, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported 1,604 cases of e-cigarette use associated lung injury and 34 deaths. Although many of these cases involved devices likely purchased on the black market, Sheahan said even devices from a legitimate store contain cancer-causing chemicals that aren’t safe.

“Because the FDA has zero regulations on these products, we have no idea what’s in them. So youth are using at their own risk, and that risk right now is death,” said Sheahan.

While the rate of smoking cigarettes has gone down to about 6% among high school students, Sheahan said vaping devices have stepped in and taken over the market share.

UW Health pediatrician Dr. Amy Plumb said some of her patients are coming in after hearing about the outbreak of lung illnesses and “are actually quite frightened about their cough, and they think it might be related to their tobacco use.”

Nurses in Plumb’s department requested that Public Health Madison and Dane County come do a presentation for them as well.

Many of them hadn’t seen Juul or e-cigarette products in person, but they wanted to know what’s attracting their young patients.

“You know that age group is still pretty invincible. (They think) they’re not going to die, ‘That’s not going to happen to me. My parents have smoked cigarettes forever and nothing bad has happened to them so why are you so worried about it?’ So you really have to get through that layer of invincibility before you can have a conversation about how you worry about them,” said Plumb.

A presentation was held at Sun Prairie High School Tuesday night and one is planned for the DeForest Public Library on Wednesday night.

There will also be a presentation at Madison LaFollette High School on November 13.

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