Editor's Note: "Studies show for every one adult e-cigarettes help to stop smoking, eight youth began smoking traditional cigarettes due to vaping." has been corrected to "Studies show for every one adult e-cigarettes help to stop smoking, 80 youth began smoking traditional cigarettes due to vaping."

While vaping among youth continues to cause concern for communities like Excelsior, experts continue to explore ways to educate on its dangers.

Jenna Wintemberg, who teaches public health classes at the University of Missouri and holds national certification as a tobacco treatment specialist, said vaping continues to be an issue for many communities. In fact, she said every community she speaks with advises of an issue among their youth.

She said vaping holds more than one danger for young people. Not only the danger of being addicted to nicotine, which she describes as a poison in itself, but also the recently confirmed lung diseases among youth.

“We’ve got just a new generation of young people becoming addicted to nicotine,” she said. “We’re finding out now that the act of vaping nicotine versus combustible tobacco like cigarettes ... (contain) separate and new health risks.”

According to information provided by Substance Abuse-Free Environments of Excelsior Springs, the Missouri Student Survey which surveys area youth on subjects including substance use every two years, 28.11% of Clay County high school students said they have used electronic cigarettes in the past, with 17.15% having used them in the past 30 days.

Wintemberg said the use among youth especially concerns her due to their developing brain.

“Young people are particularly vulnerable to addiction to nicotine because their brains are still developing,” Wintemberg said.

Until a person reaches their mid 20’s, she said, the brain continues to grow and develop. Until the brain fully forms, a person’s impulse control and decision making skills will be impacted.

She said research also shows the use of electronic cigarettes indicates a jump to traditional tobacco use.

Many view the use of electronic cigarettes as a cessation method for traditional, combustible tobacco. Wintemberg said she never recommends e-cigarettes as a cessation method. Studies show for every one adult e-cigarettes help to stop smoking, 80 youth began smoking traditional cigarettes due to vaping.

For adults, Wintemberg recommends a combination of cessation counseling and nicotine replacement therapy to stop tobacco use. For youth, however, the recommended cessation therapy will be quite different, she said.

She recommends Stanford University’s “The Tobacco Prevention Toolkit” as a way for parents to help their children learn of the dangers of nicotine.

Creators of the toolkit, which can be obtained at med.stanford.edu/tobaccopreventiontoolkit.html, said the toolkit includes “theory-based and evidence-informed resources created by educators, parents and researchers aimed at preventing middle and high school students’ use of tobacco and nicotine.”

The toolkit contains modules including one intended to provide an understanding of the inner workings of e-cigarettes, the content of the aerosols they produce and third-hand smoke. 

Creators said the goals of this module include: increased knowledge about basic facts of e-cigarettes and the harm they cause; gaining awareness of strategies manufacturers and sellers of e-cigarettes employ to increase use among adolescents, such as deceptive and creative marketing strategies; and gaining skills to refuse experimentation and use of e-cigarettes.

Wintemberg said studies show this type of program works better for youth cessation. Other effective programs include texting therapy and other electronic mediums.

Because nicotine use will take hold so quickly in the brains of youth, Wintemberg said it remains a problem.

Excelsior Springs Police Department Lt. Larry Tarrant said he agrees. School resource officers must deal with vaping among students on a weekly basis. He said he describes vaping as very concerning. Students still don’t show the impact vaping can cause on healthy adult lungs, nonetheless, the impact on still-developing young lungs.

With the recent news reports of vaping involved deaths, Tarrant said the concern grows among school district and public safety officials. He said he encourages parents to have conversations with their children about vaping use. Using information such as “The Tobacco Prevention Toolkit,” he said parents can help educate their children on the dangers of nicotine use.

“It’s better to not start,” he said. “It’s definitely something they want to avoid.”

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