LITTLE FALLS, NJ - On the heels of Passaic Valley High School's presentation "Hidden in Plain Sight," which focused on raising awareness about teen substance use, local high school officials are cracking down on the rise in vaping and its devices in delivering nicotine.
Devices that deliver nicotine and other additives are a growing trend in school districts statewide, according to reports. Electronic cigarettes, vape pens, and smokeless tobacco are tools that have been popular by many teens and young adults for the past several years. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), in recent years, teens have "vaped" or smoked e-cigarettes more than regular tobacco products.
Youth use of tobacco products in any form is unsafe, whether it is smoked, smokeless or electronic, the CDC reports. It says that usage of electronic cigarettes increased among middle and high school students greatly from 2011 to 2016 and that e-cigarettes are now the most commonly used tobacco product among youth. Nicotine exposure at a young age may cause lasting harm to brain development, promote addiction, and lead to sustained tobacco use.
Vaping is the term used for electronic cigarettes or vaporizer devices that heat up liquid or oil into of form that becomes vapor to be inhaled. The vapor can contains nicotine or marijuana. The liquid used may contain no drugs at all, however, retailers allow customization for vaping as a result of the levels of nicotine in the liquids that are bought.
According to Dr. JoAnn Cardillo, superintendent of Passaic Valley Regional High School, the high school has had incidences of such activity and officials have updated the school's policy regarding the trend.
"We are sending those students out for drug testing who are caught vaping here at Passaic Valley," said Cardillo. "We've updated our school policy to correlate with our actions. Students go for drug screening and we respond to whatever the results are."
The "Hidden in Plain Sight" presentation spotlighted manufacturers looking to cash in on the trend. An online website vaprwear.com markets to young people with hoodies, presenters told attendees at the event, and other apparel and accessories, that allows for discreet storing of devices. The manufacturer's slogan reads, "It's gear - with a higher purpose."
For several years, towns in the Passaic Valley have been trying to curb usage of the devices by underage minors and have been working towards regulating and monitoring the sale of the products to them. The owner of a local convenience store in the area was arrested in connection with selling an e-cigarette to a minor in 2015.
The Little Falls Township Council passed an ordinance in March 2017 which requires vendors to be licensed for selling electronic cigarettes and/or vapor devices from the Clifton Health Department, which is in a shared services agreement with the township. Businesses would need to have license approval and pay a sellers fee.
Additionally, newly signed legislation in the state raised the minimum age for buying and selling tobacco and electronic smoking devices. The law, which went into effect on Nov. 1 2017, raised the minimum age from 19 to 21 for purchasing tobacco and nicotine products.
The CDC also reports there was a decline in use of tobacco products, primarily driven by a drop in e-cigarette use among middle and high school students from 3 million in 2015 to just under 2.2 million in 2016. In addition, declines were also seen during 2015-2016 among high school students who used two or more tobacco products, any combustible tobacco products, and hookah.
“Far too many young people are still using tobacco products, so we must continue to prioritize proven strategies to protect our youth from this preventable health risk,” said CDC Acting Director Anne Schuchat, M.D., in a press statement.
Tobacco prevention and control strategies at the national, state, and local levels likely contributed to the reduction in tobacco use, particularly for e-cigarettes. However, the report notes that continued surveillance of all forms of youth tobacco product use is important to help determine whether the current downward trend in youth tobacco use continues.