By Chris Rotolo |
A recent study on electronic cigarettes and vaping devices indicates that users of these products are exposing themselves to cancer-causing toxins, and the report is eliciting action from local schools.
According to the study’s lead researcher, Mark Rubinstein, M.D., a professor of pediatrics at the University of California, San Francisco, urine tests from the bodies of teens who used electronic cigarettes and vaping devices revealed elevated levels of five different toxins that are referred to as Volatile Organic Compounds (VOC), all of which are known or suspected carcinogens.
Adrian Pristas, M.D., a pulmonologist for Hackensack Meridian Health at Riverview Medical Center, said these VOCs can only become carcinogenic when they are heated to a certain temperature and though vape devices are not believed to produce that level of heat, the fact that they are not regulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has led him to raise questions.
“Why would you take the chance? This is a situation that is not much different than what we’re facing with (marijuana), in that the use is way ahead of the medical knowledge,” Pristas said.
“The fact is we don’t know a whole lot about what vaping is doing to the human body. We can only compare it to other inhalation exposures. Vaping is potentially dangerous.”
Rubinstein’s study indicated that traces of these potentially harmful VOCs were detected at a rate up to three times higher in users than in those teens who did not vape.
“Many of these compounds are carcinogenic. Will they definitely cause cancer? We don’t know that, but it’s ordinarily not a good idea to put these compounds in your body, especially if you’re a youngster who is going to use these devices for many years and live with the impact of DNA mutation over that time,” said Norman Edelman, M.D., senior scientific advisor for the American Lung Association.
Though touted as a healthier option to traditional combustible cigarettes, the recent study on these VOCs tells a more threatening tale, especially when considering that addictive properties like nicotine are still present inside the liquid used within an electronic cigarette.
“It’s been proven that these devices do produce nicotine. These things are not free and clear like they’ve been made out to be,” Pristas said. “And they appear to be an addictive gateway device that leads to cigarette use, as studies have shown that those who are 14 to 30 years of age and vape are four times more likely to start smoking.”
One of Pristas’ biggest concerns surrounding the vaping issue is the latest marketing trend that appears to be targeting younger users with various flavors, including Bananas Foster, Rainbow Candy, Berry Splash and many more. These tactics are also troubling to Oceanport resident Kim Murphy, who helped found the borough’s Drug Education Initiative committee (DEI).
“All of these flavors, all these marketing tactics, they’re absolutely trying to draw in younger users, and as a parent it’s very upsetting,” Murphy said. “I’ve read that they’re primarily targeting young girls, because the vapors smell like their perfume, so they can get away with it easier. But the fact is the marketing is working. Young kids are very into it. These companies are making a lot of money. And it’s our job to educate our families.”
Murphy and the DEI committee are taking an initial educational step by inviting local parents to “Vaping: What Every Parent Should Know,” a presentation on March 20 at the Maple Place School, which will display information on the dangers of vaping, trends concerning kids, the cosmetic makeup of vaping devices and the flavored liquids that are available.
According to Murphy, the presentation is a response to the lack of easily digestible and readily available information on the issue, and the recent increase in questions she and the DEI committee have received from concerned parents.
“It’s been the No. 1 question people have had and it’s a topic that we personally don’t know much about,” Murphy said. “We don’t know what our kids were facing. We don’t know why it’s so easy for them to do it. It’s obvious that times are changing. Kids really aren’t smoking cigarettes anymore. But this is a new threat. And we need to create different platforms for professionals to come and educate us on what we’re dealing with.”
The presentation will be made at 7 p.m. and led by PJ O’Connell, Shore Regional High School’s security director, who hosted the same session at his high school in January.
“We’re very excited to have PJ leading the presentation, because he’s a retired police detective who worked in Ocean Township, so he’s able to speak from experience. He’ll show what it is that your kids are doing. He’ll let you smell the different scents. He’ll show what the different devices look like so you can identify them at home. Vaping is very accessible to our kids, but PJ is here to help.” Murphy said.
Earlier this month a presentation was held at Middletown High School South for district parents to attend and acquire information about vaping, and several other Two River-area townships are addressing, or have addressed the issue.
When the calendar turned to 2018, Red Bank Regional Superintendent Louis Moore issued a policy update to his school community, reminding students that in 2010, the state of New Jersey had implemented a vaping ban prohibiting the use of electronic cigarettes and vaping devices in all indoor public places, businesses and schools. Moore’s update also stated that possession and use of these devices on school property or at school functions “may result in serious consequences for students, including suspension, police referral and a mandatory substance screening.”
On April 25, all Freehold Regional School District parents are invited to Colts Neck High School for a special presentation titled “Vaping: The Smoke Screen our Parents Need to Know About Vapes, E-Cigs & Cloud Pens.” The 45-minute event will be led by Douglas S. Collier of Drug Education Awareness, and will include a Q&A session for attendees.
This article was first published in the March 15-22, 2018 print edition of The Two River Times.
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