By Tommy A. Noyes
This column is usually about physical activity because that is a crucial component for healthy societies. Today, let’s look at preventing serious long-term health concerns for children and young adults.
The Hawai‘i Public Health Institute (“HIPHI”) guides Hawai‘i’s efforts to reduce tobacco addition. Under HIPHI, I serve as Tobacco-Free Kaua‘i’s chair, so please feel free to contact me at (808) 639-1018 for more information on our various collaborative efforts to prevent and reduce tobacco use.
Although illegal for anyone under 21 years of age, vaping is alarmingly popular among children in our high, middle, and even elementary schools. Vaping is attractive because of the sweet flavors that children love. Many parents assume vaping is a safe alternative to smoking cigarettes. Following is text from HIPHI’s informational printed card titled, What You(th) Need to Know About Vaping: Is It Smoke or Is It Vapor? Vaping and/or using e-cigarettes IS smoking. “Smoke” is defined as “a suspension of particles in a gas.” When you heat e-juice, it produces a visible suspension of particles also known as smoke. And, just like cigarettes, these ultra-fine particles when inhaled deep into a person’s lungs are hazardous to health and to the health of those around you.
E-juice is a mixture of the chemicals propylene glycol, vegetable glycerin, and nicotine. Additional chemicals are then added to produce all the different synthetic flavors that entice customers. When heated, this chemical cocktail produces dangerous chemical byproducts that can cause cancer, heart disease, asthma, and other breathing problems.
Nicotine is NOT safe for anyone, and it’s especially unsafe for youth. Since a child’s brain is developing through adolescence, nicotine use during childhood and teen years disrupts the formation of brain circuits that control attention span and the ability to learn. It can also lead to poisoning and addiction.
Health issues aside, there is a lot of money at stake in this matter. Try to imagine how much a person who is addicted to nicotine will spend over a lifetime buying e-juice, electronic smoking devices, cigarettes or other tobacco products. This class of consumers is highly attractive to businesses selling products to a captive audience, including online, and so the tobacco industry will go to any lengths to entice young customers, including deceptive advertising.
Let’s look at solutions to this pernicious public health threat.
Education is key. Parents and children must understand the serious and potentially life-threatening implications of tobacco addiction. Kaua‘i Community Coalition Coordinator Valerie Saiki heads up Tobacco-Free Kaua‘i, and she is ready and willing to present to classrooms and organizations on tobacco and electronic smoking device education. Please reach out to her through e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Tommy Noyes is Kaua‘i Path’s executive director, a League of American Bicyclists Certified Instructor and active with the Kaua‘i Medical Reserve Corps.