Vapes can contain more nicotine than cigarettes

NO KA OI HEALTH

We all know that smoking cigarettes is bad for our health. It remains the leading cause of preventable death and is a contributing factor to cancer, lung disease, heart disease, stroke and diabetes. In Hawaii, 14 percent of all adults currently smoke cigarettes, but rates are higher among Native Hawaiians (18 percent), people with low income (21 percent), and people with depression (25 percent). Specific to Hawaii’s youth population, 8 percent of teens report currently smoking.

Smoking claims 1,400 adult lives each year in Hawaii and about $526 million in health care costs and $387 million in lost productivity alone are directly attributed to smoking.

Hawaii has made great strides in preventing and reducing smoking rates, which results in healthier people and communities.

We also now have many smoking laws in place to protect nonsmokers from secondhand smoke, including prohibiting smoking within 20 feet of public places of business, schools and restaurants, and Smoke-Free Ride When Keiki Inside, which prohibits smoking in vehicles with youths younger than 18 years inside.

However, we now have a new threat in our communities that is especially targeting our youth — vaping!

Vaping (also known as e-cigarettes) is a nicotine delivery device and nicotine is very addictive, oftentimes leading to lifetime addiction.

Among our youths, experimentation with vaping by middle school and high school students is alarming and at epidemic levels; 18 percent of Maui County middle school students and 32 percent of Maui County high school students currently vape.

About 45 percent (nearly half) of all high school students report having tried vaping at least once. In 2015, e-cigarette use among high school students had increased 900 percent! Vaping is now considered one of the most important public health issues in the U.S.

While the vaping industry markets vapes as devices to help people quit smoking, they are not FDA-approved quit-smoking devices. In fact, studies show that many nonsmokers, both adults and youths, are starting to vape and then go on to using regular cigarettes. Among youths, 40 percent of vape users had never smoked regular cigarettes.

Keep in mind that the companies that are creating tobacco and nicotine products are making them simply to make money. They make money by getting people addicted to these devices. In fact, the tobacco industry spends $9.4 billion on marketing nationwide each year.

The tobacco industry specifically makes vapes appealing to youths with fun and sweet flavors such as apple pie, watermelon and mango.

Four of five youths who use tobacco started with flavored products. Most adults and youths didn’t know how dangerous vaping was when they started, with many youth thinking vapes were made only of flavored water vapor.

Vapes are not just sweet water vapor. They contain many cancer-causing chemicals, including formaldehyde, arsenic, lithium and lead, just to name a few. These chemicals have been shown to lead to many diseases including cancers, lung disease and heart disease. Lead is known to cause brain damage, especially in youths. In addition to these health issues, vaping can lead to additional addictions as well as mental health problems.

Vapes include nicotine, and a lot of it, which is highly addictive. Vapes can include much more nicotine than cigarettes. Once a person starts using nicotine products, it is very hard to quit. Young people, with developing brains, are even more susceptible to addiction. In fact, 95 percent of adult smokers started before the age of 21.

Don’t fall for the tobacco industry’s expensive marketing plan to get you or your kids addicted to tobacco and nicotine products. Protect yourself, protect your keiki, and protect your community from these harmful and addictive substances. Educate yourself and talk with your keiki. To avoid getting addicted to tobacco and nicotine devices, simply don’t start in the first place. Over half of Hawaii youths who use nicotine have tried to quit.

Below are a few resources if you want more information about vaping and tobacco products or if you want support with quitting:

• Call 1(800) Quit-Now for support on quitting tobacco and nicotine products.

• Visit www.808NoVape.org and www.HawaiiNoVape.com for more information on the harmful effects of vaping.

• Call the Maui District Health Office, Public Health Education office at 984-8216 if you want more information on tobacco and nicotine products.

* Kristin Mills is a public health educator with the Maui District Health Office. “No Ka Oi Health” appears on the last weekend of months that have five Sundays.