Didn’t it seem like a great idea to find an alternative to cigarettes that didn’t smell as bad, create as much secondhand smoke, and cost as much? The common misconception is that e-cigarettes, often called e–cigs, are that savior. As much as America would like to believe that, we simply cannot. The reason for that being our children: the next generation, the ones who will eventually lead this country, and the ones who are still vulnerable to tricky advertising.
Members of Youth With Vision, the youth advisory council to the Northland Coalition, sponsored by Tri-County Mental Health Services (TCMHS), have noticed this e-cigarette trend gripping their fellow peers. This student-led group has decided that e-cigs are something that their peers don’t truly understand.
As a society, we have been calling these “tools of cessation,” and placing them in a “safe” category and stating they are “simply healthier” than traditional tobacco products. It’s no wonder our teens are confused. How can we possibly call something safe and use it as a medical device for smoking cessation, if it was harmful? In the 21st century, our teens have a plethora of information at their fingertips, some of it truthful and some of it… not so factual. How are they to understand the gravity of the situation when many adults don’t even comprehend it?
This is where funding through the Health Care Foundation of Greater Kansas City plays a role. Through the funding TCMHS has received, we are focusing on educating our teens and communities on the dangers of all nicotine products, especially e-cigarettes. Nicotine is the addictive component found in traditional tobacco products, as well as newer alternative forms of smoking devices, such as e-cigs and vapes. Not to mention the countless number of chemicals found in e-cigs and vapes, including formaldehyde, fluorine, tobacco-specific nitrosamines (cancer-causing compounds also found in tobacco smoke), acetone, glycerin, and propylene glycol.* Throw in some delicious nicotine liquid flavors, such as gummy bear, cotton candy or bubble gum, and you have a product targeting teens for nicotine initiation.
According to the Center for Tobacco Control, youth who smoke e-cigarettes are more than two times as likely to use traditional cigarettes in their lifetime.
TCMHS efforts include providing school education presentations and educating community leaders consisting of school faculty and administrators. TCMHS is also working to develop a toolkit for schools based on grade levels, and we have also worked with the teen advisory council to create and implement an e-cigarette educational campaign for their peers.
While many students are resting up this summer, Youth With Vision students will continue the planning and implementation of their campaign. The students have developed PSAs that will air on Pandora this fall, along with posters and educational information on their website and Tumblr.
The campaign will roll out this fall in the Kansas City regions of Clay and Platte counties and will continue into the 2015-2016 school year.
*Trimarchi, M., & Cassidy, S. (n.d.). 10 Little-known Facts About E-Cigarettes. Retrieved from How Stuff Works.
This blog post is part of A Healthy 10.