Although cigarette use has declined among teens, e-cigarette use has skyrocketed in recent years.

E-cigarettes have become the most frequently used tobacco product among adolescents, with more than 2 million middle and high school students using the devices. E-cigs are devices that heat a liquid that produces an aerosol and come in a variety of shapes and sizes. That liquid often contains nicotine and a host of other harmful chemicals, none of which are safe for kids, teens or young adults. E-cigs also are used to vape marijuana and other drugs.

One of the most popular e-cigs is a slim, flash drive-looking device called JUUL. According to the manufacturer, JUUL delivers high levels of nicotine, making them extremely addictive. JUUL is so popular that it exceeded a $10 billion valuation faster than any other company, including Facebook.

Many young people know that traditional cigarettes are harmful, but don’t see the harm in vaping. This is compounded by the fact that e-cigs are marketed as a smoking cessation device. Additionally, vaping doesn’t stink like tobacco smoke and teens often think they’re inhaling pleasant smelling gas.

E-cigs often come in innocent looking and attractive packaging, and the small size make vapes easy to hide. Yet despite the “cool” look, health officials warn that nicotine is always addictive and harmful, especially to young people. But many young people don’t realize e-cigs contain nicotine, nor the dangers of the drug.

Nicotine can harm a developing adolescent brain, and affect cognitive ability, mental health and personality. Evidence also suggests nicotine may damage blood vessels, raise blood pressure and increase the risk of clots. And in this new age of COVID-19, research suggests vaping puts young people at a greater risk of developing severe effects of the virus.

Yet teen vaping has become so prevalent that the U.S. Food & Drug Administration has declared it an epidemic. Last year, federal health officials linked a series of lung illnesses to vaping, mostly black market devices used to vape marijuana. Still, researchers are cautiously optimistic as the first quarter of 2020 showed a slight decline in youth e-cig use.

The 2020 Youth Tobacco Survey, conducted between January and March, showed that just shy of 5% of the nation’s middle school students use e-cigs. Among those users, most use flavored e-cigs and most used prefilled pods or cartridges.

And while the report notes a decline in use, the percentage of youth who appear addicted has increased.

Parents can learn more about the risks and get tips on talking with teens about e-cigs online at www.e-cigarettes.surgeongeneral.gov. Along with facts, this site offers actionable steps to take along with other resources. There also is an e-cig quitting resource for teens from the Truth Initiative, which has a free, anonymous, text-to-quit program for teens and young adults. Teens and young people can text DITCHVAPE to 88709 and get immediate help. Parents of teens who vape can get support at BecomeAnEx.org.

Talbot Goes Purple is an educational and awareness prevention program that empowers our youth and our community to “Go Purple” as a sign of taking a stand against substance abuse. The purpose of the program is to promote the “new conversation” – one that includes prescription drugs, alcohol, marijuana and e-cigarettes. TGP focuses on educating students about the dangers of tobacco, alcohol and other drugs, and works toward preventing kids from beginning to use these substances in the first place.

An initiative from the Talbot County Sheriff’s Office and Tidewater Rotary, in partnership with Talbot County Public Schools, Saints Peter & Paul School and the Mid-Shore Community Foundation, Talbot Goes Purple empowers our youth and our community to “Go Purple” as a sign of taking a stand against substance abuse.

More information about Talbot Goes Purple is available at www.talbotgoespurple.org. Find us on Facebook @TalbotGoesPurple or contact us at [email protected].

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