GREEN  Portage Lakes Career Center (PLCC) held a Coffee and Conversation Sept. 12 to discuss the epidemic issues of teen vaping.

Cory Kendrick, the policy and legislative affairs manager at the Summit County Public Health Department, led the conversation explaining vaping myths and the dangers youth face with vaping.

When vaping first came out, it was marketed as a safe alternative to smoking – a harmless water vapor you blow out.  What is in that vapor that is coming out of the e-cigarette? Many chemicals but the most common things: propylene glycol, vegetable glycerin and MCT oil.

Propylene glycol is basically a liquid alcohol that is often used as a solvent. It is used in antifreeze and in the plastic and food industries. Kendrick said it is a fungus stat to help control fungus.

Vegetable glycerin is a sugar alcohol that comes from animal product as well as plants or petroleum. It was originally used to make dynamite.

MCT oil is considered to be a medium chain triglycerides form of saturated fatty acid.

Although these items are approved to ingest, they are syrup like substances “we are inhaling into our lungs. It is no surprise the effects that are now being seen. If you see how thick some of these liquids are, it is very concerning,” said Kendrick. 

Why does vaping appeal to teens? It is the flavors.

“If you walk into a vape shop there are 150 to 200 flavors from glazed donuts to blueberry muffin," Kendrick said. "They are attractive flavors that go down in the lungs pretty easily.

Kendrick said it being a safer alternative to cigarettes is a big misconception and added that the social media buzz talks about vaping, cloud competitions and more entices kids.

“Advertisements push that it is safer for you (than tobacco products),” said Kendrick.

There was a 78 percent increase nationally last year of youth vaping. One in five high school students vape as well as one in 20 middle school children.

“We know that students who vape are seven times more likely to try traditional tobacco products,” he said.

Summit County numbers are rising for kids vaping. Kendrick said they ran a student survey of all 18,000 students in Summit County in seventh grade and up.

What they found out was traditional smoking in the last five years fell to 5.8 percent.

“That was great, that is what we want to see," Kendrick said.

However, Kendrick said vaping (use of e-cigarettes) went up 25 percent.

“In five years, we went from almost no smoking and then our old smoking rate doubled," he said. "The statistics stated 42 percent of high school students have tried vaping and 11 percent of those who have tried it, tried the product at age 12 or younger. The suburbs were hit a lot harder than the cities. The city of Akron had a much lower rate than the surrounding communities. By the senior year in high school, about one in two students have tried an e-cigarette."

As far as current users, which is classified as “used in the last three days” by their senior year, 37 percent of students in the suburbs are considered current vape users. By the 12th grade in the suburbs, those that have ever used is almost 60 percent.

How are children getting the products?

“Unfortunately, 37 percent of the students are able to get them by walking into the store,” said Kendrick. “Which is why we pushed so hard for Tobacco 21 in Green and surrounding communities.”

Tobacco 21 was recently passed in the State of Ohio and it is making it much harder to get these products. Along with raising the age, it also become illegal to sell the products to those under 21. Kendrick said that it allows for undercover buys to make sure that retailers quit selling to the youth. Data, according to Kendrick, shows that the retailers are selling to those underage.

Youth also get it from someone they know.

“Another reason why Tobacco 21 works so well is because it takes out that social circle. Most teenagers have an 18-year-old in their social circle but not a 21-year-old as often,” Kendrick told those in attendance.

Kendrick pointed out the dangers of what is often stated to be safe, harmless water vapors.

He said the chemicals mentioned, while safe as a food additive, are not safe to smoke. When you super heat them they turn into a whole other animal. They create new compounds and new chemicals including cancer causing chemicals and it creates ultra-fine particles which permeates the lungs deeper than traditional tobacco products. The flavorings are the most toxic and linked to serious lung disease. Vaping is linked to COPD just as traditional smoking is.

The research is catching up to people using the vapor products and proving that vaping is as dangerous and, in some points, more damaging than traditional tobacco.

They are finding new biological components in the products that are contaminated. The type that are found in waste plants.

“The human brain is the last organ to fully develop, so any addictive substance we do not want to introduce into our youths’ brains. It can change the way the brain thinks, the way it develops, it can also lead to higher risks of further addictions down the line,” Kendrick said.

One pod in a Juul vaper contains the equavilent of one pack of cigarettes. It is not uncommon for a student to go through two or three a day.

“It is creating super addictive teens," Kendrick said.

Nationally, cases of severe lung disease caused by the vaping is on the rise daily including six confirmed deaths. In Ohio, the numbers went up and two were confirmed in Summit County and more under investigation. These are people with serious lung issues and are incubated and in the hospital for weeks and months.

Kendrick said as if the serious illnesses are not enough, the e-cigarettes can blow up. There are cases of death from exploding devices.

Evidence shows that vaping doesn’t help to quit smoking. Rather, it takes one addiction to another with potentially unknown health consequences. The number one proven way to quit smoking is with FDA approved cessation products and counseling.

What can you do?

Have a conversation, try to get as much research and facts that you can. Hopefully something comes out of the teens that are surviving this and sharing their stories.

“I encourage you to look at their stories and share those with your teens,” Kendrick said.

On the Summit County Health website, there are resources to help. There is a number there that is for teens to text or call to help quit the habit. Kendrick also suggested talking to your doctor.

"You really don’t know what you are getting in the vaping products," he said. "They are not being tested and regulated. You can purchase the products without nicotine, but you are still getting a lot of the bad stuff, cancer causing chemicals, the particles that set deep in the lungs, etc."

For more information and resources, visit https://www.scph.org/ or call 330-923-4891.