Students learn dangers of vaping, e-cig fad

Jordan Gerard

With a large majority of students in today's world understanding the dangers of smoking a traditional cigarette, tobacco companies have found a new, modern way to entice kids into smoking, and it's affecting Houston County kids.

Students at Spring Grove Public Schools learned about the dangers of vaping, or smoking electronic cigarettes (e-cigs). It's a fast growing trend among youth since 2014.

Audrey Staggemeyer from Houston County Public Health told students vaping is still just as dangerous as traditional cigarettes.

"It's true most e-cigerettes contain nicotine – a highly addictive drug," she said.

Nicotine is colorless, oily, toxic and often used as an insecticide. In addition to nicotine, the e-juice can contain other harmful substances.

The juice is often flavored to taste like fruit, candy and other food like tacos and hot dogs. A common brand of a vape is JUUL.

One juice pod in a JUUL e-cigarette contains a high level of nicotine and equals one pack of traditional cigarettes.

"Youth are smoking one to two a day, sometimes up to three," she said. 

The difference between a cigarette and the electronic version is what is exhaled. With a traditional cigarette, it's smoke; but with an e-cig, it's essentially an aerosol with fine particles.

Many companies will market the e-cigarettes as safer than the traditional because the user exhales "harmless water vapor."

However, Staggemeyer said that's not true and in the vapor are small particles such as heavy metals – which can cause cancer – and diacetyl (causing lung disease), benzene, formaldehyde and many more.

The other danger is the lithium battery used to power the device and release the aerosol. If it becomes overcharged or overheated or perhaps just by simply using it, it has a chance to explode. 

Injuries and deaths have been reported with using e-cigs. Staggemeyer told the students of a young person whose e-cig exploded and hit his carotid artery.

Poisoning has also skyrocketed since the e-cigs became more popular. It's even more dangerous if people mix the juice themselves. 

Staggemeyer also told the students about a mother who was mixing the juice and her 18-month-old child got a hold of it and ingested it. The child later passed away.

"It also harms brain development," she said. "Your brain is still developing until age 25, and if you smoke, your brain learns addiction."

Smoking affects learning, memory and attention span. It can also affect the heart, blood vessels and oral hygiene, as the propylene glycol – an acid – wears away the enamel and causes tooth decay.

She added it can also be a gateway into other dangerous behaviors such as smoking other tobacco, using other drugs and alcohol usage. Even with one try of smoking addiction could take hold.

In Houston County, Staggemeyer said there has been a 50% increase from 2014 to 2017. She said the data for 2018 and 2019 would grow even more.

"Why is it growing so fast?" she asked students.

They answered e-cigs were being used as a "health alternative," and common reasons like peer pressure, makes students look cool and some may use it as a stress reliever.

She also added the usage was growing because the taste of the e-cig is flavored. If it tasted bad, no one would use it.

Junior Abby Towne took a survey of her peers and found 87.6% of students said they know someone who currently vapes. 

What's more surprising is results showed 78.7% of students said they tried vaping, while 21.3% said they did not.

If they would ever try vaping, 78.7% said they would try it. As for smoking a traditional cigarette, 9% said they have.

Are they aware of the effects of smoking? Yes, 95.5% of students confirmed they were aware of the effects. 

Staggemeyer said another big factor for youth usage was companies using social media to market to students including Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat and more.

Vaping is illegal for ages under 18. Some states have passed laws that said youth cannot buy tobacco until they're 21 years old. Staggemeyer said she wouldn't be surprised if Minnesota passed the bill soon.

There are 87 counties in Minnesota have passed T21, where youth in that county cannot buy tobacco until they are 21 years old. As of May 2019, 34 of those counties have adopted the T21 Policy, which raises the age to 21 to be able to purchase tobacco.

The City of Spring Grove recently added e-cigs to its own tobacco policy, which means it holds the same rules for traditional cigarettes. Persons under 18 years of age cannot purchase tobacco products or if they have possession of them, smoke the e-cig in an area where smoking is prohibited (Title 300, Chapter 308).

She said if students are struggling to quit, there are several apps to help them quit or they can ask for help.

If students are caught with the device on school property, the district will follow its policy, and also Minnesota State High School League's (MSHSL) policy if they participate in extra-curricular activities. 

For MSHSL, even if students aren't on school property with the device, but are caught elsewhere, the same process would result.

It could also lend them a ticket to the county attorney's office, a diversion program and community service from one month to a year.

If the student has a prior record, it will also require them to go in front of a judge, which could result in a misdemeanor conviction and placed on probation.



If I was a kid I’d be yelling “ Liar, Liar Pants on Fire right now”. Where are these so called “ Health Officials getting this Fake information? Certainly not from doing any actual Research. I’d be fired from my job if I spread such lies. There were over 500 papers published and peer reviewed in 2018 alone that showed the safety of vaping. Not one for instance said that it caused cancer. Okay... so you don’t want kids to Vape. Neither do I . But spreading outright lies under the guise of science misinforms more than kids and hurts those who would otherwise switch to the safer alternative of vaping and perhaps save their lives.

I agree. Show me the studies, and who paid for those studies. Yes vaping nicotine containing juice is illegal for those under 18/19 and some places 21. Know your kids. Spreading this kind of propaganda and fallacy is just bad form.