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Worried if your child is vaping? Local health experts weigh in on CDC's new e-cigarette report

The image shows a close-up of a young man using a small cylinder vape. There is smoke coming out of his mouth.
Clear Cannabis
Despite a decrease in teen vaping, hospitalizations for vaping-related health issues are on the rise.

COLUMBIA — A new study released Thursday by the U.S Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Food and Drug Administration shows e-cigarette use in down among high school students this year.

According to the report, current use (past 30 days) of any tobacco product declined drastically, with a nearly 4% drop from 2022 to 2023 among high school students, primarily due to a decline of electronic cigarette use.

Despite the decrease, the CDC said there is still work to be done.

“The decline in e-cigarette use among high school students shows great progress, but our work is far from over,” Dr. Deirdre Lawrence Kittner, director of CDC’s Office on Smoking and Health, said. “Findings from this report underscore the threat that commercial tobacco product use poses to the health of our nation’s youth. It is imperative that we prevent youth from starting to use tobacco and help those who use tobacco to quit.”

This is tenth year e-cigarettes have been the most commonly used tobacco product among both middle and high school students.

Out of 2.8 million middle and high school students who reported using a tobacco product currently, 2.13 million were specifically using an e-cigarette.

In fact, there was a significant 2% increase last school year of middle school students using at least one tobacco product.

A common misconception of e-cigarettes is that they are a safer or less addictive option compared to cigarettes.

However, that is not the case. A single vape pod can deliver as much nicotine as a pack of cigarettes, according to the One Choice Prevention organization.

The health concern with e-cigarettes is that most (99%, according to a CDC study) contain nicotine, a highly addictive stimulant that can harm young adolescent brain development which continues until around age 25. It specifically harms parts of the brain that control attention, learning, mood and impulse control.

But the brain development impact isn't the biggest health concern.

The CDC began investigating a steep rise of hospitalizations linked to the use of vaping products in 2019. These patients, who all shared the same commonality of using a vape product within the last three months, complained of respiratory symptoms including shortness of breath, cough and chest pain, according to the CDC.

This condition was named "e-cigarette, or vaping, product use associated lung injury" (EVALI). In February 2020, the CDC reported a total of 2,807 hospitalized EVALI cases or deaths nationally.

Although data for 2023 is not yet available, use of e-cigarettes among Missouri high school students declined significantly from 21% in 2020 to 15% 2022, according to Dr. Jenna Wintemberg, a tobacco treatment specialist at MU.

Wintemberg accredits the decline to public health, education and regulation finally starting to catch up to e-cigarettes.

"We're seeing more restrictions around flavors, which we know are very appealing, enticing to youth. Access − in late 2019 we saw that the age increase to 21 years old to buy tobacco and nicotine; brought us up from age 18," Wintemberg said.

Another concern with middle school students actively using e-cigarettes is an increase in addiction, she said.

"All teen substance use is interrelated," said Heather Harlan, a community health educator at the Columbia/Boone County Public Health and Human Services. "If a young person uses one potentially addictive substance, they're more likely to use other ones."

Harlan says regarding solutions, it's essential to reach out to local school districts for trends it's seeing, which the state has begun doing.

"Now, in your schools, in Boone County, they're beginning to ask for the completion of the Missouri Student Survey, and that gives us an idea. It puts our finger on the pulse of what our students are reporting they might be using," Harlan said.

Harlan said the survey will help give Missouri counties an idea where they should focus its resources at.

Anyone experiencing a nicotine addiction and is looking to quit can call Missouri Tobacco Quit Service's hotline 1-800-QUIT-NOW. The hotline assists ages 13 and up.

To report an error or typo, email news@komu.com.

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