Daniel Island School PTA learns about e-cigarettes from MUSC doctors
On March 28, the Daniel Island School PTA hosted a meeting to discuss e-cigarette usage among teens and what should be done about it. “We organized this event as the PTA tonight to just continue to promote education in our parent community here on Daniel Island,” said PTA President Ashly Grzyb. “We just want to continue to support any issues that our community is concerned with and let them know that our mission is the wellbeing of our students.”
“It’s a little bit complicated, but we hope to simplify this and have messages that are really helpful,” said Dr. Kevin Gray at the top of the meeting.
Dr. Tracy Smith, an assistant professor at the Medical University of South Carolina, spoke first about the known issues with vaping and to educate parents on what e-cigarettes look like.
“Tobacco products exist on a continuum of harm,” she said, explaining that traditional combustible forms of tobacco products are the most harmful, while nicotine patches are the least. E-cigarettes are located somewhere in the middle. “We know for sure that they are less harmful than cigarettes, but they are certainly not as safe [as other products],” Smith added.
The doctor continued to teach parents the basics of e-cigarettes, including the different brands. She provided a JUUL to show attendees what to look out for. “JUUL is a name brand of cigarette, and it’s particularly attractive to youth and adolescents particularly because it is sleek,” she claimed. “It doesn’t produce a lot of vapor, so kids and adolescents like it.”
Dr. Smith took some time to discuss the popular topic of JUUL’s marketing, which is often criticized for what some perceive as targeting the youth. She showed pictures from JUUL’s social media pages, depicting 20-somethings using their product. These images have reportedly been removed from their social media sites. “It just seems very young, hip, and fun, and you can see why it might be appealing to youth,” she said.
JUULs marketing now depicts older smokers, she added.
Dr. Matt Davis, an instructor at MUSC, took the stage next to reinforce the main points of Smith’s presentation.
Providing statistics from 2017, Davis claimed that “two-thirds of kids didn’t know that nicotine was even present in a JUUL, 20 percent believed that the smoke was only water and as you guys just learned, it’s not just water vapor, a quarter of them thought that e-cigarettes were not a tobacco product at all, and kids felt like the mango flavored JUUL was less harmful than tobacco flavored JUUL.”
Dr. Davis added that educating kids on the truth of e-cigarettes was the best way to combat their use.
One question Dr. Davis regularly hears about e-cigarettes is “how did this become such a big thing?”
“I think the first thing is that it’s perceived as a less risky alternative, which it is,” he said, before adding peer pressure and anxiety as two other common reasons teens give for using e-cigarettes.
Dr. Davis did clarify that data supports claims that e-cigarettes are an effective way for adults to quit smoking. “It’s a very different environment for adults to be using e-cigarettes,” he stated. “But, with kids, it’s really a small minority who are using it to help them stop smoking cigarettes.”
After the presentation, one parent posed a question about the difference between tobacco and nicotine. “I know nicotine’s highly addictive,” she said. “But, is it tobacco that causes cancer?”
“Nicotine’s the thing that gets people to keep doing this [smoking], but it’s all the other ingredients— once you set the tobacco leaf on fire and inhale it, it’s got all kinds of carcinogens,” said Dr. Gray.
One attendant asked what the harm was if there’s no smoke. “It’s a vapor that has solvents and other chemicals in it,” Dr. Gray responded. Those solvents leave some ambiguous long-term effects that have many health officials concerned.
“It is not smoke,” Dr. Smith added. “It is not cigarette smoke, but it is an aerosol that resembles cigarette smoke.”
Another parent wanted to know how e-cigarettes, specifically JUULs, functioned. Dr. Smith demonstrated the basics, pointing out the cartridge that contains the nicotine oil and described how the device is charged on a computer.
The presentation covered the basic topics associated with vaping. It served as an important primer in combating e-cigarette usage among teens.