Mississippi health experts say the number of high school students using e-cigarettes and vaping is on the rise despite years of working to reduce tobacco use. MPB's Desare Frazier reports.
Tobacco use has declined among Mississippi children since outreach began in the late 1990's according to Sandra Shelson with The Partnership for a Healthy Mississippi. Now she's concerned about a resurgence in nicotine addiction. Shelson says a growing number of children are using e-cigarettes and vaping. She says 10.3 percent of high school students report using e-cigarettes and 5.9 percent of middle school children.
"A lot of youth, a lot of people quite frankly think that they are a safer alternative to cigarettes. If you are a young person and you've never used tobacco products the beginning usage with these products problematic," said Shelson.
Shelson says the nicotine alternative devices release an aerosol that contains chemicals such as formaldehyde used to preserve dead animals and acetone found in finger nail polish. The products come in different shapes and sizes. A new device called Juul looks like a thumbdrive. Shelson says flavors are added to attract children. Professor Robert McMillen is with Mississippi State University's Social Science Research Center. Even though the products have been out only five years, he's concerned about the long term effects.
"Blood was examined of teenagers who used these products. They had elevated amounts of certain carcinogens and other toxins in their blood," said McMillen.
McMillen says the U.S. Food and Drug Administration doesn't regulate the devices, which make it easy for kids to get them. Police in Madison County recently issued a warning after some teens vaped cannibis oil and had to be hospitalized. Professor McMillen says he expects new stats due out soon, showing an increase in the use of e-cigarettes and vaping among Mississippi children.