While the Food and Drug Administration takes steps to crack down on the use of e-cigarettes by teenagers, the Talawanda School District is taking its own preventative measures.
Amy Macechko, health and wellness coordinator for Talawanda, said the district’s strategy is to educate faculty, staff and parents on vaping.
“Our focus right now is on addressing the problem in our community,” said Macechko. “We’re using what we know to be good prevention practices.”
Although there has yet to be extensive research on the effects of e-cigarettes, Macechko says they are harmful.
“We know that any type of introduction of chemicals or drugs to a developing or adolescent brain poses a danger,” Macechko said. “The devices may be marketed as a safer alternative, but any chemical entering a young person’s body is bad for their health and wellbeing. It’s really hard to say that there are no health risks when we haven’t had the time to say that that is the case.”
Vaping has taken off in the past few years. According to a 2016 report, the Surgeon General observed a 900 percent increase in e-cigarette usage from 2011-2015. San Francisco-based Juul holds 68 percent of the market, according to Nielsen data.
In a recent panel discussion in Washington, FDA Director Scott Gottlieb said the agency was considering a ban on online sales of e-cigarettes.
“The disturbing and accelerating trajectory of use we’re seeing in youth, and the resulting path to addiction, must end,” Gottlieb said in a press release on Sept. 12.
E-cigarette and vaping companies maintain they market their products to adults trying to quit smoking tobacco. But others, such as Gottlieb, say e-cigarettes are marketed to teenagers. The liquid pods used to fill them are often sweet and fruit-flavored.
"E-cigs have become an almost ubiquitous, and dangerous, trend among teens,” said Gottlieb. “It’s simply not tolerable. I’ll be clear, the FDA won’t tolerate a whole generation of young people becoming addicted to nicotine as a tradeoff for enabling adults to have unfettered access to these same products."
The FDA sent 1,100 warning letters to retailers for selling e-cigarettes to minors, and fined 131 retailers for the practice. They’re also threatening further action if e-cigarette brands don’t demonstrate how they plan to curb the appeal of e-cigarettes to teens.
The FDA has asked the companies to present “robust plans on how they’ll convincingly address the widespread use of their products by minors.”
Back in Talawanda, Macechko said she is working to better understand how students under age 18, the legal age for purchasing e-cigarettes, are acquiring them.
“We are currently trying to assess and better understand the issue in our district,” said Macechko.
There are three smoke shops that deal heavily with vapes in Oxford: Oxford Smoke Time, Cloud 9, and Studio Vapes.
A handful of other establishments sell both Juul and liquid Juul pods, including United Dairy Farmers, Wildberry, the Oxford Hookah Lounge, Brick Street Bar & Grill and Fridge & Pantry.