E-cigarettes reversing smoking addiction
The increased popularity of e-cigarettes among young people is reversing decades of work to turn youth away from nicotine, public health experts said today.
Fewer middle and high school-age people are smoking, but use of e-cigarettes : which look like USB drives and contain nicotine, the addictive ingredient also found in cigarettes : is rising, they said, and the harmful chemicals included in the devices can affect heart and brain function.
Allen County Health Commissioner Dr. Deborah McMahan called the trend an impending epidemic in a presentation this morning at McMillen Health, and other doctors who spoke urged state and federal lawmakers to regulate the devices and ban the often sweet flavors that make them attractive to young people.
“I can see the attraction in the design, how it looks, how it feels,” McMahan said. “That’s going to be really hard for us to challenge. It’s just dangerous. This is going to be a problem for the next 10, 20, 40 years.”
Cigarette use among high school students dropped from nearly 32 percent in 2000 to about 9 percent in 2016, according to statistics from the Indiana Tobacco Prevention and Cessation Commission. Among middle school students, the rate dropped from about 7 percent to 5.3 percent over the same period, the agency reported.
However, more than 10 percent of high school students and nearly 3 percent of middle school students reported using e-cigarettes, according to the Indiana Youth Tobacco Survey, which is conducted by Indiana University researchers.
“If we didn’t have the darn e-cigarettes come along, we would have been making such great progress,” said Nancy Cripe, executive director of Tobacco Free Allen County.
For more on this story, see Tuesday’s print edition of The Journal Gazette or return to www.journalgazette.net after 1 a.m. Tuesday.