PLATTSBURGH | Since September of 2019, there have been a total of 60 confirmed vaping related deaths, four of which were in New York. Overall, there have been about 2,700 known cases of vaping-related illnesses in the last year. The use of vape products have only gone up, according to Reality Check of New York, a program designed to increase awareness among people, specifically youth, on the dangers of smoking.
Statistics by Reality Check showed that vaping among high schoolers has increased 78 percent. 42 percent of seniors in high school vape, and 30 percent of high schoolers in general admitted to using vape products. However, it is not that easy to catch, according to Reality Check Program Coordinator Rachel Danis.
“In school, [students] are hiding them in gum wrappers, they’re hollowing out markers and putting liquid/plastic cement in it,” Danis said. “We have pringle containers, we have hoodies, Pepsi containers that have soda in them, but the bottom spins out and it’s full of juuls.”
Even though the minimum age to buy tobacco and vaping products is 21, that doesn’t stop those under from getting access to juuls and more. One way for minors to access these vapes is through the internet. Since there is no way to confirm identification, they are able to lie about their age and buy products as wholesale. With all these vaping products, they sell them to other students for a profit, spreading the epidemic. According to Danis, there have been quite a few incidents where kids were found with vapes in schools where it turns out the parent bought it for them, thinking it was better than smoking cigarettes. Obviously, that is not the case, as juuling or vaping is also dangerous.
“The best strategy is around educating people of the dangers,” John Bernardi said. “If [parents] are approached in a more informative way and enlightened, there’s a better chance that they’re going to listen.”
A large reason products such as juuls are so popular among kids is social media. Apps such as Tik Tok and Youtube give a video platform where users’ activity is monitored. Watching trending videos of vaping tricks or reviews lets juul ads target them on other sites. Despite the fact that juul claims they advertise towards adults, 34% of its users are underage.
“There’s over 20,000 flavors on the market now,” Danis said about juuls and vaping liquids. “Because it’s not regulated, they can use the same exact label as Sour Patch Kids, Sweedish Fish and Sour Worms.”
In the late 1900s, tobacco product advertisements were banned from television and radio. However, since then, social media has become a new form of advertising, one that is not covered in the Public Health Cigarette Smoking Act. This has politicians and more looking for a new act that can protect teenagers and kids from seeing online vaping ads.
“If you go on some of these sites, you can order just about anything you want,” Assemblyman Billy Jones said. “We have 35 bills in the state legislature right now, but to tell you the truth, I think if we pass 34 of them, I still don’t know if it’s going to solve the problem … we’ve got to go back to the tobacco motto. We can ban all the flavors we want, but they’re going to find something. Education and taxing this stuff – that’s how we made some serious strides in tobacco.”
One juul pod is equivalent to 20-40 cigarettes in terms of nicotine, and kids admit to vaping 2-4 pods a day. This is extremely bad for their underdeveloped lungs, and the oil inside the vaping products stick to the inside of the lung, causing difficulty breathing, fatigue, chest pain, fever, vomiting and more. Illegal THC cartridges are also a big danger, as they could contain Vitamin E, which is bad for your lungs if smoked or vaped. Vaping-associated pulmonary injury, which is a vaping-related lung disease, can be life threatening, especially for kids.
This year, a new juul-like product is hitting the market, called Puff Bars. They have approximately 50mg of nicotine and contain around 200 “puffs” per bar. The tri-county area has yet to see them, but Danis is sure they will become popular among the youth, and to keep an eye out for them around schools and other youth areas. ■