DeKalb County health official says local youth vaping numbers up

January 11, 2019

Muhammad Mustafa, owner of Best in the Smoker’s World in Sycamore, said he has seen an uptick in vaping in the past few years among older teens and young adults.

Mustafa said sales for the e-cigarettes, pods and juices have really taken off – especially in the past year or so. He said he doesn’t blame customers for turning to e-cigarettes when their house won’t stink from the flavored pods. It’s cheaper than regular cigarettes – which cost about $70 per carton, he said, as opposed to a JUUL e-cigarette and four pods costing about $50 – and that people think it’s healthier to vape than smoke cigarettes. Still, he said, he is still up-front with patrons about potential effects and the research that is out there.

“I’ve got to be honest with my customers,” Mustafa said.

Mustafa’s comments come after the Food and Drug Administration and the U.S. Surgeon General recently called the youth use of e-cigarettes an epidemic.

One in five high school students reported using e-cigarettes in the past month in 2018, according to the U.S. Surgeon General’s office.

Lisa Gonzalez, public health director for the DeKalb County Health Department, said the DeKalb County numbers are following that uptick trend, with 29 percent of 12th graders, 19 percent of tenth graders and 7 percent of eighth graders reporting they have used e-cigarettes in the past 30 days, according to the 2018 Illinois Youth Survey, which most of DeKalb County schools participate in. That’s more than doubled from 2016, when 12 percent of 12th graders, 10 percent of tenth graders and 4 percent of eighth graders reported vaping in the last month.

“So if you think about that, that is reason to be concerned and is why there is an uptick in the prevention education around the issue as well,” Gonzalez said.

Gonzalez pointed out in the 2016 and 2018 data, respectively, that reported cigarette use in 30 days has gone down from 11 to 7 percent for 12th graders and 4 to 2 percent for tenth graders. She said there still isn’t a lot of information about what ingredients are in vaping products, and studies have shown that nicotine is not only addictive but is harmful to adolescent brain development.

There were 15 recorded vaping incidents and two cigarette incidents at Sycamore High School during the current school year so far, according to data provided by Sycamore High School Vice-Principal Nicholas Reineck. That’s already more than doubled from the previous school year, with seven vaping incidents and zero cigarette incidents.

Tim Carlson, principal of Sycamore High School, said Carlson said the consequence for students caught vaping or smoking is situational and depends on the student’s previous history and as long as it’s within state disciplinary standards. He said JUULs, a type of e-cigarette, look like a USB drive and might be hard to easily detect by teachers and parents as a result. He said e-cigarettes typically come from someplace else and work their way to school.

“People don’t like hearing this, but this is a community issue, not a school issue,” Carlson said.

Gonzalez said the county health department plans to up the ante on e-cigarette education county-wide in the next year. She said potential grant money from the Illinois Department of Health also will go towards the effort.

While Carlson thinks it doesn’t help that kids think they’re invincible at this age anyway, he said, he thinks kids are also a victim of advertising when it comes to e-cigarette use.

“I always tell kids, I don’t get mad when you do this stuff; I’m more sad for you,” Carlson said. “Because I just know if you get into something like this that’s addictive, I just know the struggles you’re going to have for the rest of your life.”

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