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BE chief concerned about ‘vaping’

By Staff | Oct 22, 2017

Vaping. It is the most commonly used tobacco product among youth according to the Minnesota Department of Health (MnDOH), and has become an emerging public health threat.

Blue Earth’s chief of police, Tom Fletcher, spoke of the dangerous misuse of e-cigarettes and vaporizers seen around the state of Minnesota and even here in Faribault County.

Fletcher says though vaporizers and e-cigarettes are legal in the state of Minnesota for the use of tobacco products, there has been a lot of misuse of this new type of inhalant.

Vaporizers and e-cigarettes are battery-powered devices that allow users to inhale (or “vape”) either aerosolized liquid or dry tobacco. According to the MnDOH, nearly all e-cigarettes contain nicotine.

Be that as it may, Fletcher says that some vaporizers can come with refillable canisters, allowing the user to put in practically any substance into the vaporizer and inhale it.

“You can vape anything you wanted to, which is the most dangerous part to this increasing trend,” says Fletcher. “We’ve seen many cases where marijuana is used in the vaporizers as well as alcohol, which is probably one of the more dangerous trends we’re seeing.”

Blue Earth’s chief of police explains that when a person consumes alcohol regularly, by ingesting it, the liver, stomach and other parts of the body filter the alcohol through the body, which not only allows for the effects of alcohol to take a little longer, but it also allows the body to expel alcohol when there is too much alcohol in the system.

“When you drink too much, the body’s natural response is to vomit,” says Fletcher. “But when someone puts alcohol into the vaporizer and inhales it into their lungs, there is no filtration system for the alcohol to go through, which can easily and quickly lead to alcohol poisoning. This is a very dangerous trend we are beginning to see.”

Thankfully for the crew in blue, area police and law enforcement are able to tell what substances are in the vaporizing mechanism when it is disassembled.

“When e-cigs and vaporizers first came out, people thought they could smoke anywhere inside, outside, in stores, in theaters, wherever. Now we know that’s not allowed. So, we’re seeing the same trend but instead of different places to smoke, people are finding different substances to smoke or inhale,” says Fletcher.

One of the larger at-risk populations are teenagers, according to the MnDOH. According to their website, e-cigarettes are available in fruit and candy flavors making the substances more appealing to youth.

E-cigarettes and vaping are also sometimes advertised as celebrity endorsements. According to the MnDOH, a majority (57.4 percent) of high school students have seen ads for e-cigarettes on television.

And, as the age of technology continues to grow, so does the availability of the hot commodity. Vaporizers are available for purchase online.

With all of these concerns for students, both Blue Earth Area and United South Central Schools not only have policies in their student handbooks outlining the specific non-use of any form of tobacco on the school campuses, there are also educational components in student curriculums that discuss the dangers of this trendy mechanism and habit-forming substance.

For BEA, high school principal Rob Schneider states the school has outlined the dangers of vaping in their health class curriculum, while USC has currently been looking at getting even more curriculum in place for 7-12 graders on the subject of substance abuse.

Planning and Implementation coordinator for USC’s Alcohol and Other Drugs?(AODA) Coalition, Aron Welch, says there are specific data of USC?students regarding risk and protective factors.

“Risk and protective factors work like this: if a student smokes a cigarette, they are so many times more likely to become regular users of tobacco, and so on,” says Welch.

And according to USC’s Positive Community Norms data, it seems peer pressure is working to the advantage of students on the campus.

The findings state that students who reported their friends would feel it was wrong to smoke tobacco are 9.3 times less likely to smoke tobacco themselves compared to students who reported their friends would feel it was either a little wrong or not at all wrong.

Although, according to the Minnesota Department of Health’s website, nearly one in four of Minnesota high school students who have tried e-cigarettes have never tried any other conventional tobacco products.

“A growing body of evidence indicates that young people who have never smoked cigarettes, but currently use e-cigarettes, are more likely to smoke cigarettes in the future than young people who do not use e-cigarettes,” claims the MnDOH website.

They also mention that e-cigarettes and vaporizers are not FDA-approved smoking quitting aids and are not proven to help people quit.

“The evidence is currently insufficient to conclude that electronic nicotine delivery systems (like a vaporizer) are effective for smoking cessation,” says the key findings document of a 2016 MnDOH survey. “There are seven medicines approved by the FDA?for smoking cessation and are proven safe and effective when used as directed.”

Though some citizens in the state of Minnesota have found ways around these vaping laws, evidence shows Faribault County is not only well-aware of the rising popularity of the device, but have laws and education in place to make its citizens well-aware of the risks involved in its use and misuse.