The increasing use of vaping among youth is a concerning trend observed in the town of Telluride. According to the Healthy Kids Colorado Survey, teens in Telluride are surpassing the state average for both smoking and vaping. The survey, conducted every odd-numbered year to assess the health and well-being of young people, shows that 31% of teenagers at Telluride High School reported using a vape product in the past 30 days, compared to the state average of 16%. This disparity raises alarm bells for public health officials in San Miguel County.
Local retailers have noticed a significant uptick in the sales of e-cigarette and vaping products, particularly flavored disposable vapes, in recent years. Flavored disposable vapes, such as those in fruity flavors like watermelon, mango, and strawberry lemonade, have become extremely popular among young customers. The appeal of these flavors plays a significant role in attracting adolescents to vaping, with 28% of Telluride high school students who use vapor products citing flavor as the primary reason for use.
The availability of disposable e-cigarettes, which are thrown away after use, has contributed to their growing market share. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s data analysis revealed that disposable e-cigarettes’ share of vaping sales more than doubled from 24.7% in early 2020 to nearly 52% last year. However, this popularity is not without concern.
Public health officials, like San Miguel County Public Health Director Grace Franklin, emphasize the potential harm of vaping on adolescent development. Franklin emphasizes that vaping impacts the developing brains of adolescents. Many adolescents hold a misconception that vaping is less harmful than smoking cigarettes, but Franklin dispels this notion. Most e-cigarettes contain nicotine, an addictive substance, as well as other harmful chemicals that impact overall health. Unfortunately, these harmful substances are not always disclosed on labels due to differing regulations compared to traditional cigarettes.
Regulation is a pressing concern. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has taken steps to address the issue of unauthorized disposable vapes flooding the market. Warning letters were sent to retailers selling fruit- and candy-flavored disposable e-cigarettes, which lack proper FDA authorization. In 2020, the FDA restricted flavors in cartridge-based reusable e-cigarettes, like Juul, to only menthol and tobacco. However, this restriction did not extend to disposable e-cigarettes, leaving the door open for a broad range of flavors that attract young users.
San Miguel County aims to educate and raise awareness about the risks of vaping among youth. Efforts are underway to combat the appeal of vaping flavors and dispel the notion of vaping’s safety. The county is committed to protecting the health and well-being of its young population and helping them make informed decisions about their health.
While the popularity of vaping, especially among youth, continues to rise, it is important for communities to address this issue seriously. By implementing comprehensive education programs and stricter regulations, communities can work towards curbing the use of vaping products among youth, protecting their health and well-being in the process.