COVID-19 was not the first respiratory illness to create a stir in our community in 2019/2020.
EVALI (e-cigarette or vaping- use associated lung injury) was an outbreak that touched every state beginning in the fall of 2019. According to the CDC, the multistate outbreak was responsible for approximately 2,500 cases and 50 deaths.
Such products were originally marketed as a way to quit smoking cigarettes, a healthy alternative for the environment and cheaper products.
However, younger people who began vaping, using e-cigarettes or Juuling (Juul is a brand of e-cigarette) weren’t originally tobacco cigarette users seeking new ways to quit smoking. EVALI mostly affected younger people, many of whom suffered acute respiratory failure.
Why is Juuling so appealing to the younger generations?
• JUUL has 73.4% of the e-cigarette market
• One JUUL pod equals the nicotine of 20-25 cigarettes
• One package of four pods costs $15.99
• One hundred cigarettes costs $30
That’s a lot of nicotine going into our children’s lungs.
The EVALI outbreak was caused by the dominant presence of vitamin E acetate in the THC-containing vaping products. Unfortunately, the biochemical mechanism of EVALI is still unknown. This outbreak allowed researchers an opportunity to investigate the dangerous effects of vitamin E acetate on the lung. A strong advantage of this outbreak was the initiative to restrain the availability of vitamin E acetate-containing vaping products to the public.
According to the most recent National Youth Tobacco Surveys (NYTS), about 1 in 15 middle school students were current users of tobacco products in 2020. That statistic was 1 in 8 during 2019. From the same survey, nearly 1 in 4 high school students were current users of tobacco products in 2020, compared to 1 in 3 during 2019. The NYTS survey also says there were an estimated 1.73 million fewer youth tobacco product users in 2020 than 2019.
Luckily, younger people have taken charge, and for the first time in years there has been a recorded decrease in vaping. According to government data, the rates of vaping decreased from 27.5% in 2019 to 19.6% in 2020.
One major factor behind teens choosing to purchase electronic smoking products was the flavoring, such as raspberry, mint or even coffee. Once new regulations caused companies to omit flavors, the appeal to youth decreased. Students turning toward remote learning during the pandemic allowed for parents to become more aware of their kids’ health behaviors, which could have contributed to the decrease in 2020. Other factors attributed to the decline are public health initiatives, health advocates within the school system and FDA regulations.
Nevertheless, youth vaping rates are still very high, and we are still in a public health crisis! This epidemic has affected young people, families, schools and communities. The FDA has vowed to enforce the minimum age of 21 to purchase any tobacco products, educate the public of the current issue and enforce against youth-appealing tobacco products.
Healthy Kingsport advocates for a tobacco-free lifestyle. According to the World Health Organization, there is indisputable evidence that implementing 100% smoke-free environments is the only effective way to protect the population from the harmful effects of secondhand smoke.
Join the 77 other Kingsport workplaces by posting “Healthy Kingsport’s Tobacco Free Campus” signage and promoting a healthier generation! Visit healthykingsport.org to sign up to be a tobacco-free campus.
Healthy Kingsport is a nonprofit organization dedicated to creating a community that actively embraces healthy living by promoting wellness, enhancing infrastructure, and influencing policy. Contact Jessica Vargo@ HKIntern@healthykingsport.org.