Educating parents and youth on the risks of vaping

09/09/2019
New data shows that e-cigarette use has surpassed conventional cigarettes as the most commonly used tobacco product among Massachusetts youth.

By Jaime Lederer, MSW, MPH, Program Supervisor, Community Health Improvement

In June 2018, the Massachusetts Legislature passed a law requiring people to be at least 21 before they can buy cigarette, tobacco or vaping products. This is a bold move and one that is expected to have a positive impact in reducing tobacco initiation among young people across the state. Eighteen other states have similar laws in place. Currently, we know that most tobacco users start smoking before the age of 18, developing a nicotine addiction in early life.

New data available from the state's Youth Risk Behavior Survey (YRBS), shows that e-cigarette use has surpassed conventional cigarettes as the most commonly used tobacco product among Massachusetts youth. The YRBS is conducted every two years to monitor health indicators, behaviors and risk factors among high school teens in Massachusetts. Nearly half of all Massachusetts high school students have tried e-cigarettes at least once and nearly a quarter reported e-cigarette use within the past 30 days. This increase is alarming and nine-times higher than Massachusetts adults.

It is vital for parents, educators and health care professionals to understand what these products are and the potential risks associated with them. The Massachusetts Department of Public Health has launched a new statewide public information campaign about vaping. The goal of this outreach effort is to educate parents of middle and high school-aged youth on the risks and dangers of vaping and e-cigarette devices.

Young people are exposed to a multitude of misinformation and marketing about emerging tobacco products. Youth are targets of the tobacco industry to be new consumers and develop an interest and addiction so they will continue to purchase these dangerous products. Through cheap pricing, a variety of flavored offerings and easier access, Juuls, vape pens and e-cigarettes are the latest products that the tobacco industry markets. As parents, health care providers and caring adults, we can help them develop the necessary skills to make healthy decisions.

The campaign, "The New Look of Nicotine Addiction," seeks to raise awareness of the dangers of vaping, which can damage a teenager's developing brain and lead to addiction. The campaign's website is www.GetOutraged.org and provides facts about vaping products and specific information for parents and caretakers. Follow the campaign and help spread the word on Facebook and Twitter.

Cambridge Health Alliance

Contributed By: Cambridge Health Alliance

Cambridge Health Alliance is an academic community health care system committed to serving all members of our communities. We have expertise in primary care, mental health and substance abuse, and caring for diverse and complex populations. CHA patients receive high quality care in convenient neighborhood locations, and have seamless access to advanced care through CHA’s affiliation with Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center. With over 140,000 patients in Cambridge, Somerville Everett and Boston’s Metro North, CHA is working hard to offer the integrated services its communities need now, and in the future.