As school begins again in Berkshire County, I want to remind parents in our area that the tobacco industry continues to produce new and varied nicotine delivery products, like e-cigarettes and vape pens that are sweet, cheap and easy for young people to get. These products are not regulated by the FDA so there is no way of knowing how much nicotine or other chemicals they contain. They come in candy and fruity flavors and have become trendy among young people; in fact their use is on the rise among high school students. In Massachusetts, high school students who have ever used e-cigarettes doubled from 5 percent in 2011 to 10.7 percent in 2013.
This is important because nicotine is highly addictive and it can produce chemical and structural changes in the developing adolescent brain that may lead to future alcohol and other drug addiction. Flavored tobacco products are considered "starter" products by the FDA, that aid in establishing patterns that can lead to long-term addiction, but what about flavored e-cigarette products? New data from the 2011-2013 National Youth Tobacco surveys of middle and high school students show that students who smoke e-cigarettes but have never smoked conventional cigarettes are almost twice as likely to have the intention to smoke conventional cigarettes in the next year.
The Berkshire Tobacco-Free Community Partnership encourages parents and teachers to look around to see what’s being sold in your community. Talk with kids about nicotine and products like vape pens, e-hookah and e-cigarettes and ask them what they see.
Many people think the tobacco problem is solved. It’s not. Many municipal Boards of Health have taken strong action to make these products less available to young people in their communities and we encourage concerned adults to support their local Board of Health in this work. With coordinated action between parents, teachers, students and governing bodies, the next generation could be tobacco free.
Director of Public Health Initiatives
Berkshire AHEC (Area Health Education Center)
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