What Can We do to Stop the Vaping Epidemic

Vaping is an epidemic that has taken every school by storm. There is not one school in New Jersey, if not the United States that has gone unaffected. There are so many risks to vaping, and a lot of the risk comes from the unknown.

What we do know is that vape juice (e-juice, flavors, etc.) contain many harmful chemicals including diacetyl, known to cause popcorn lung, and formaldehyde, used for embalming. There is not a single product used for vaping that is FDA approved, including the commonly used Juul pod.

E-cigarettes and vapes were designed as a “safer” or “healthier” product for those who smoke cigarettes to taper off their nicotine use. The fact is, though, there are no approved cessation routes that include vapes or e-cigarettes. Most of the time, people start by using cigarettes, then switch to vaping, but more often than not, these users become dual users, using both cigarettes and vapes. In turn, they end up consuming more nicotine than they otherwise would have.

Aside from the adults that vapes were designed to be used for, marketing has followed suite with Big Tobacco and cigarette advertisements. Instead of marketing to adults, we often see advertisements that are made to entice youth and young adults. Why? Because they become the long term users. Ads display young people, surrounded by people of the opposite sex, blinged out with expensive jewelry, and living in expensive cities. They all look happy, and pleasant. There are also over 15,000 different flavors in e-juice which are directed towards flavors youth would like; cinnamon toast crunch, cookies and cream, crème brulee, etc.

So the question, then, is how do we prevent underage use of this unregulated nicotine trap? A common theme among professionals is to ban all flavors of the e-juice. Youth and young adults are drawn to these flavors and many youth state that they started to vape because there was a flavor that they were interested in trying, and continued to vape because the flavor (and nicotine) had them hooked.  By eliminating flavors, we are eliminating part of the appeal.

Further, there needs to be continued pressure on the FDA to regulate the e-juice. With no ingredients listed on any product, it is unknown what effects e-juice will have on you, or if the products are even safe for consumption. If there is regulation, the safety of the consumer will finally be taken into consideration.

The Death Toll from Alcohol is on the Rise

The numbers of deaths due to alcohol, drugs, and suicide has continuously been on the rise and in 2017, it was the highest number since records of these numbers began. The percent of deaths related to alcohol, drugs, and suicide rose from 43 up to 46 deaths per 100,000 deaths. Though this rise was slower than in previous years, it is still the highest number that it has been.

It, sadly, is no surprise that these numbers continue to rise, as the country continues to fail at alleviating the issue. The real issue is identifying the underlying causes to drinking, using drugs, and increases thoughts of suicide. Some people feel that the increase in social media and virtual connectivity has led to an increase in loneliness and a lack of compassion for others. Feeling isolated can often lead to an increase in other mental health issues, such as depression and anxiety. Further, as social media use increases, there is a rise in bullying which further isolates people.

Aside from isolation, social media has added a glow to everyone’s life; only posting the best of the best and often times that means being out, socializing or partying. This glow normalizes and endorses drinking and drug use, making feel like that is what they have to do to fit in.

The health and well-being trust has proposed of a few initiatives that would hopefully help to decrease these numbers. The first is to spend more money on programs that increase child resilience and decrease risk factors in order to decrease overall adverse childhood experiences. The more adverse childhood experiences a person has, the more likely they are to have a substance use disorder or mental health disorder. Another suggestion is to increase policies surrounding safe keeping medications and firearms in order to minimize the access to methods used for suicide. The final suggestion is to increase services to raise awareness about addiction and overdose and to ultimately reduce the risk of the two.

At Morris County Prevention is Key and CARES, we work towards these same policy suggestions. Morris County Prevention is Key provides prevention programs to students in Morris County from ages seven (7) to fourteen (14), as well as to older adults in the community and families. These prevention programs work on building coping and communication skills while also, in an age appropriate manner, introducing the concept of addiction and how serious it is. CARES works on raising awareness about addiction through narcan trainings, various support meetings, and working directly with those who struggle with addiction and their families. The non-profit as a whole also works towards enhancing policy throughout the county, such as encouraging each municipality to have a secure medication drop box for all unused or expired medications.

If you are interested in programs offered through Morris County Prevention is Key, call (973)625-1998. For inquiries about CARES, call (973)625-1143.