In Pennsylvania, we’ve come a long way in reducing tobacco consumption rates. Consider this ⎼ in 2012, 14% of high schoolers smoked cigarettes. In 2014, cigarette use dropped to 9.2%. While there is a decline in tobacco use, parents, school administrators and our organization are noticing an increased use of electronic cigarettes (e-cigarettes). E-cigarettes are devices that consist of three basic components: a battery, atomizer, and cartridge. The cartridge holds a liquid solution (which contains propylene glycol or vegetable glycerin, 0-36 mg/mL of liquid nicotine, preservatives, flavoring, and water) that turns into an aerosol when the battery heats up the atomizer.
E-cigarettes have particularly appealed to young adults, with their consumption surpassing all other tobacco products among middle and high school students. Between 2013 and 2014, e-cigarette use tripled among high school students, rising from 4.5% to 13.4%. And yet, when I talk with teens and ask them how e-cigarettes work and what the e-cigarette solution or “juice” is made of, they often have no idea. There is a lot of conflicting information available from individuals with extreme points of view, making it difficult to discern fact from fiction, and to determine whether the information provided is coming from a reputable source.
At Breathe Pennsylvania, we develop and implement programs that teach students about the dangers of tobacco use from cigarettes, chewing tobacco, and cigars, as well as the potential risks associated with products like electronic cigarettes. We recognize that while e-cigarettes may have value in helping tobacco smokers quit, they are not approved as a smoking cessation device and they are not proven to be safe. This Kick Butts Day, let’s empower Pittsburgh’s youth to make positive choices about their lung health.