By CRISTIN REECE
A recent study by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention suggests the use of e-cigarettes is on the rise among America’s youth.
According to an article published at the Central Broadcasting Service’s online news site, www.cbsnews.com, researchers with the CDC examined data garnered through the National Youth Tobacco Survey — which polls about 20,000 adolescents in grades six through 12 on their tobacco-related beliefs and attitudes, use habits and exposure to pro- and anti-tobacco influences — and reported finding vaping, or using e-cigarettes, has increased from 4.7 percent of surveyed high school students in 2011 to 10 percent by 2012, the last year data was collected.
Health officials said they’re concerned the trend of vaping might lead some young people to start smoking real cigarettes, because 90 percent of all smokers start when they’re teenagers, according to the CDC.
“The increased use of e-cigarettes by teens is deeply troubling,” CDC Director Dr. Tom Frieden told cbsnews.com, and added nicotine is a highly addictive drug. “Many teens who start with e-cigarettes may be condemned to struggling with a lifelong addiction to nicotine and conventional cigarettes.”
One study finding that concerned the CDC was that one in five middle schoolers used e-cigarettes without ever using a tobacco product.
“These dramatic increases suggest that developing strategies to prevent marketing, sales and use of e-cigarettes among youth is critical,” Dr. Tim McAfee, director of the CDC’s Office on Smoking and Health, added in a statement to CBSNews.
The CDC’s study was published Sept. 5 in Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.
E-cigarettes are battery-powered devices which deliver a dose of nicotine via water vapor. Federal law currently does not prohibit the sale of e-cigarettes to minors; does not regulate the types of cartridges sold; nor does it require retailers of e-cigarettes to be licensed.
In April 2011, the FDA announced plans to regulate e-cigarettes as a tobacco product under the Tobacco Control Act, which allows state and local governments to regulate the sale and use of tobacco products and authorizes them to enact measures that could be more restrictive than federal law.
This means that e-cigarettes are not to be sold to any Texan under the age of 18 years. The Texas legislature passed the Texas Tobacco Law in 1997 to limit minors’ access to tobacco and holds retailers accountable for tobacco sales to minors and provides strict consequences for youth who are cited for using, purchasing or even possessing tobacco products.
If they’re under 18, it’s illegal for them to have cigarettes, dip or other forms of tobacco and for anyone to provide it for them.
Locally, two vapor shops opened recently in Palestine and area convenience stores have been selling e-cigarettes for more than a year now. Neither shop sells to minors and both have that policy posted liberally at their stores.
“We’re here to help people kick a habit, not help them start one,” local vape shop owner Jennifer Sutton said.
Chase Calloway, owner of the other local vape shop, added, “We don’t want anyone under the age of 18 to get their hands on this, especially if they’re not already smoking. These products are not intended for people who don’t already smoke.”
Barbara Keeton, operator of Andy’s Tobacco said, in her store’s case the law states minors are not allowed in the store at all, for any reason.
“We are a self-serve tobacco store and the law is very clear for us,” she said. “They’re not allowed to step foot in our store, even with a parent. We don’t sell anything to minors.”
Jeromy Orr, a staff member of a Kim’s Convenience store located in Elkhart, said that chain also only sells e-cigarettes to adults.
“We’re not seeing many minors coming in after them really,” he said. “But we card, frequently, and anyone under 18 years old doesn’t get them or any traditional tobacco product either.”
Area school officials, including Elkhart and Westwood Independent School Districts, said they’re not seeing much evidence of this trend, at least not on school grounds, as yet.
Chapter 38 of the Texas Education Code gives a district’s school board members the authority to prohibit smoking or using tobacco products at a school-related or school-sanctioned activity on or off school property; prohibit students from possessing tobacco products at a school-related or school-sanctioned activity on or off school property; and ensure that school personnel enforce the policies on school property.