60.4% of teenage students that use e-cigarettes – also known as vaping – on a regular basis have reported symptoms of depression, compared to 29.1% of those who have never used e-cigarettes. The risk associated with vaping was the focus of K-State's Living Well Wednesday series.
‘It’s Not Kool to JUUL’: Expert warns of vaping use among teens
K-State’s Living Well Wednesday series kicks off with caution against e-cigarettes
Oct. 16, 2023
By Pat Melgares, K-State Research and Extension news service
MANHATTAN, Kan. – Among teens – and those in Kansas are no different – it may have seemed ‘cool’ years ago to puff cigarettes, or today’s version: e-cigarettes.
But tobacco use among teens has never really been cool, says Donna Gerstner of Live Well Finney County in Garden City.
- 60.4% of students that use e-cigarettes – also known as vaping – on a regular basis have reported symptoms of depression, compared to 29.1% of those who have never used e-cigarettes.
- 42.5% of those who use e-cigarettes are more likely to self-harm; 42% plan on it; 37.5% will attempt self-harm.
- 8 out of 10 youth who use e-cigarettes reported additional substance abuse, including alcohol and marijuana.
“So you see that it’s really scary that youth are using vapes because it causes suicidal behavior,” said Gerstner, who coordinates grants aimed at chronic disease risk reduction (known as CDRR) and e-cigarette prevention.
In Kansas, more than 48% of high school students have tried e-cigarettes and 22% are currently users, according to surveys done by the state’s Division of Public Health.
Health officials say tobacco use among youth, including vaping, has negative consequences that ultimately cause more than 60,000 Kansans under age 18 to die prematurely from smoking.
“The tobacco industry is creating vaping products that appeal to young people,” Gerstner said. “This includes vaping pens that look like USB drives, ballpoint pens, watches and even vape wear, such as a hoodie where the vape comes out of the drawstrings.”
Vaping gained popularity in part because youth believed it was less harmful than smoking, was less expensive and many e-cigarettes came in various flavors.
But, Gerstner says, don’t be fooled by the lack of smoke produced from e-cigarettes. The cloud produced by e-cigarettes may appear to be water vapor, but in actuality it is a harmful aerosol of poisons that actually sticks to surfaces and creates a phenomenon known as third-hand smoke.
“Think of hairspray…what does it do? It doesn’t go away when you spray it on your hair,” Gerstner said.
“When somebody is vaping in an area, they leave chemicals on nearby surfaces, then dust reacts to other chemicals in the environment to form toxic chemicals. That’s third-hand smoke. These are potentially harmful chemicals that people and animals can be exposed to through the respiratory system. Small children are especially at-risk for third-hand smoke exposure because they always put everything in their mouth.”
In Garden City, Gerstner has been involved in efforts to pass a city and county ordinance that banned the sale of vaping products to teens. Currently, a group is working to change a school policy to eliminate a first-offense suspension for youth caught with vaping products, which only serves to give the opportunity for youth to stay home and vape there.
“Instead,” she said, “we need to give those youth the tools that they can use to help themselves.”
“We also have a statewide youth program called RESIST to fight against the tobacco industry’s manipulative marketing tactics,” Gerstner said. “Local chapters work to educate their peers and advocate for local policies that restrict access to tobacco products.”
Gerstner spoke at length on the topic during the K-State Research and Extension online series, Living Well Wednesday. Her presentation, titled ‘It’s Not So Kool to JUUL,’ is available to view online.
The Living Well Wednesday series continues Nov. 1 with a presentation titled Teen Stress and Anxiety: How Worried do Parents Need to Be? The series is free, but those interested are required to register online to receive a link where the session can be accessed.
More information also is available at local extension offices in Kansas.