HEALTH

Teen vaping up by 78 percent, according to new data

BY Joanna Gagis, Producer/Correspondent |

The JUUL has been sold as the safer way to smoke. And it’s working. Just ask Mike.

“I feel the JUUL is definitely a healthier option,” said William Paterson University student Mike. “It lacks a lot of the components of tar and different potent components that are known to be in cigarettes.”

But FDA research shows an alarming uptick in younger students using e-cigarettes, a 78 percent increase among high school students, and a 48 percent increase among middle school students. A recent report by the Centers for Disease Control confirms the trend.

“In 2018, nearly 5 million middle and high school students used any tobacco products, and that includes more than 1 in 4 high school students and approximately 1 in 14 middle school students. E-cigarettes were the most commonly used tobacco product among youth,” said Andrea Gentzke, a health scientist in CDC’s Office on Smoking and Health.

“We have an industry, a tobacco industry that continues to manipulate the truth and share with our youth that e-cigarettes and vaping is a safe alternative. And it really is not,” said Dianne Litterer, CEO and executive director of the New Jersey Prevention Network, a public health agency that’s working with New Jersey’s Department of Health to reduce teen smoking.

“They’re being introduced to nicotine by using these e-cigarettes, and JUULs as an example of it. It’s an easier product to use,” Litterer said.

“It’s like right there and it’s like really easy to use. Just like phones, or just like any type of technology,” said Anthony, a student at William Paterson University.

The e-cigarette company JUUL is even running an ad campaign encouraging traditional smokers to switch to their e-cigarettes.

But Gentzke says it’s not a safer option.

“A single JUUL pod can contain about the equivalency of nicotine as a pack of cigarettes. It can harm the developing adolescent brain. It can impact learning, memory and attention,” said Gentzke.

The Murphy administration recently dedicated $7 million, that’s one percent of the tobacco tax to combat teen smoking in the state.

“Part of that comprehensive response is including youth engagement. Really getting the youth involved with, again, not just being the problem that these youth are smoking e-cigarettes and JUULs. But have them figure out what are some of the solutions and really to change that culture within their schools,” Litterer said.

A portion of the state grant will be used to open 11 new quit centers across the state. They’ll offer a range of counseling and support services to help people give up the habit.