Electronic cigarette use, also known as vaping — the latest dangerous trend in tobacco for teens — is threatening the health and wellbeing of our kids. Yesterday, the El Paso County Board of Health signed a resolution declaring youth vaping a public health crisis in El Paso County.
The resolution follows an executive order signed by former Colorado Governor Hickenlooper in November, aimed at reducing tobacco use and vaping among youth. Other communities such as Jefferson County and now El Paso County are following suit. The resolution seeks to raise awareness about the dangers of vaping and highlight the urgency to address youth vaping in our community.
While only 7 percent of high school students in El Paso County smoke cigarettes, 44 percent of students admit to experimenting with vaping. E-cigarettes are the second most tried substance in El Paso County — more than marijuana.
Vaping is not safe for youth. Studies have shown that the aerosol from vape products can contain dangerous toxins, including heavy metals and chemicals known to cause cancer and other diseases.
Nicotine, the highly addictive ingredient in cigarettes, is also present in most vape products including all JUULs, the most popular e-cigarette brand among teens. Nicotine use has negative impacts on adolescent brain development, including effects on working memory and attention, and it can lead to lifelong addiction.
Less than half of El Paso County youth believe that vaping is harmful. Unfortunately, because vaping is so new, parents and other trusted adults often don’t feel equipped to talk with youth about the risky habit — or even recognize that it’s risky.
To help with this, the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment has created free materials to help parents and other adults who work with youth talk about vaping with teens. They are available on the new Tobacco Free Colorado website at: TobaccoFreeCO.org/know-the-facts/.
“We know from research that young people benefit from conversations with their parents or other trusted adults, like teachers, coaches and counselors,” said Dacia Hudson, the program manager of the Tobacco Education and Prevention Partnership at El Paso County Public Health. “Conversations where a trusted adult talks to kids about the dangers of vaping without judgment can be very productive, and actually change teens’ minds.”