The Glasgow Courier - Serving Proudly As The Voice Of Valley County Since 1913

By Michelle Bigelbach
The Courier 

Vaping Becomes Epidemic in MT

VCHD Determined to Educate Parents, Teachers, Students

 

October 30, 2019



E-cigarettes, specifically the brand of e-cigs JUUL, have been around since 2015, however, it has only been this year that deaths and injuries have been reported as a result of vaping. As of press time, there have been no reported death or illnesses in Valley County, however as of Oct. 28, there have been five identified cases of vaping-associated pulmonary illness and one death in Montana. On Oct. 10, the Center for Disease Control (CDC) reported 1,299 lung injury cases associated with the use of e-cigarettes or vaping products from 49 states, the District of Columbia and one U.S. territory. The CDC also reported 26 deaths in 21 states.

With the increase in injury and deaths associated with the use of electronic cigarettes, on Oct. 8, Governor Steve Bullock directed the Montana Department of Public Health and Human services (DPHHS) to implement emergency administrative rules to temporarily prohibit the sale of flavored e-cigs, which was set to take effect on Oct. 22. The ban would have lasted for 120 days, which is the maximum by law, expiring on Feb. 19, 2020.

However, on Oct. 18, Ravalli County District Judge Jennifer Lint signed a temporary restraining order that prohibits the Governor and health officials from enforcing the ban.

The Montana Smoke Free Association, Freedom Vapes, Liberty Smoke and uBlaze Vapor brought the lawsuit, claiming the ban could force more than 20 Montana businesses to close. The businesses owners claimed the pulmonary illnesses that were reported could be the result of the “illicit addition” of THC or marijuana products into legal vaping products. Judge Lint scheduled an Oct. 30 hearing to consider arguments and Gov. Bullock’s press secretary told the Ravalli Republic that officials were reviewing the judge’s ruling. At press time, there was no decision made.

Upon announcing the ban, the American Lung Association released a statement applauding the Governor’s action to protect the health of all Montanans. “While we strongly support this step to address the youth e-cigarette epidemic, we know more must be done to discourage youth from beginning to vape in the first place,” said Senior Director of Advocacy for the American Lung Association in Montana. The Montana Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics also issued a statement stating “Our members stand in strong support of Governor Bullock and his plan to help us fight the epidemic of vaping that has consumed our children and our schools.”

According to Montana DPHHS, over half, 58 percent, of high school students in Montana have tried e-cigarettes (e-cigs). In 2019, almost one-third, 30 percent, of Montana high school students reported currently using e-cigarettes. Even though there are currently no numbers on the percentage of Valley County students who have tried or reported currently using e-cigs, Valley County Health Department’s Tobacco Prevention Specialist Teri Long calls the usage “an epidemic.”

“Parents have no idea their child is smoking e-cigs because it doesn’t smell like smoke. Children can hide it from their parents. They can even sit in the back of the classroom, smoke, and teachers won’t even know as it smells like Bath and Body Works products,” stated Long. “E-cigs can look like watches, flash drives, and even water enhancer containers. Coaches, health professionals and parents need to be educated on e-cigarettes.”

Long and the Valley County Health Department are doing just that. Long has given educational talks to Hinsdale, Nashua and Frazer students and teachers, with a stop at both the Glasgow Middle School and Glasgow High School in the near future. She will also have a table set up at parent/teacher conferences with hand-outs and education to inform both parents, students and teachers on the effects of using e-cigarettes. “Montana’s numbers are higher as a whole for the number of kids that are vaping, chewing and smoking. Parents have no idea because their child, the child’s belongings, doesn’t smell like smoke,” explained Long.

The CDC states most e-cigarettes contain nicotine, which is highly addictive, and nicotine exposure during adolescence can harm brain development, impact learning, memory and attention as well as also increase risk for future addiction to other drugs. “These e-cig companies claim e-cigs are meant to help people quit smoking. How can a person quit smoking if there is pure nicotine in these products?” said Long.

“The marketing for these e-cigs are very similar to how cigarettes were marketed in the 1950s/1960s. They are just now upgraded and modernized. There are 15,000 different vaping flavors out there, and let’s be honest, it’s all geared to kids,” explained Long. “E-cigarettes are not good for young people and it’s not a way to quit smoking.” Long advises parents to pay attention to their children and start the conversation on the harmful effects of vaping and e-cig usage. “Parents and schools need to be aware of what’s going on,” stressed Long.

Youth who need assistance with quitting are encouraged to text, chat or phone My Life, My Quit, which is a youth program geared to youth ages 12-17 who want to quit all forms of tobacco, including vaping. Text (or call) “Start My Quit” to 1-855-891-9989 or visit mylifemyquit.com. There are also a number of other resources available including Montana Tobacco Quit Line, 1-800-QUIT-NOW (1-800-784-8669), American Indian Commercial Tobacco Quit Line, 1-855-372-0037 or even contacting Long at 228-6261 to obtain resources to quit or for more information.

 

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