Health department concern rises with increased e-cigarette use

Local News

A study done by the Surgeon General showed a 10 percent increase in e-cigarette usage among high school seniors. In the more than 40 years of studies, no substance has increased by that much in one year. Wichita County is seeing a rapid increase in that as well.

In 2016, the Youth Tobacco Survey in Wichita County showed the percentage of 12th graders using e-cigarettes was 9.2 percent. The survey from 2017 shows that number has risen quite a bit and Amanda Kennedy, with the Wichita County Health Department, said some of that may come from teens believing it to be safer.

“A 5 percent increase in a big jump,” Kennedy said. “Usually you would see maybe a 2 or 3 percent difference from year to year, but from 2016 to 2017 was a big jump. E-cigarettes come with the misnomer that they’re safer. There is no safe form of tobacco.”

Foggy Memories owner Chris Lunsford said e-cigarettes were originally designed to help people stop smoking cigarettes but said he sees a couple of reason teenagers have started to use them.

“If you are new to it there is a buzz sensation that goes with it and that’s the part the kids are abusing,” Lunsford said. “Not the intention at all with the device, but really the buzz is what lead people to smoking. They have flavored cigarettes, but yes this is a more intense flavor concentration and a bigger variety of flavor concentrations.”

When it comes teens buying the products, Lunsford said he doesn’t have many come to his shop partly because there are easier places to buy from.

“Certain pieces of the industry, no particular brand name, is over distributed and sold at gas stations and I, on purpose, do not sell that particular product,” Lunsford said. “I’m not catering to the teen. I don’t want them to come in here. If they aren’t 18 or older they have to leave.”

The health department has different programs to help educate people about tobacco use.

“Teachers, educators, counselors from each school can definitely talk to their students and help their students understand the dangers of e-cigarette usage through the Catch My Breath Program,” Kennedy said. “We can tailor fit the Catch My Breath curriculum and also do an assessment for students.”

With education programs for students and store owners making sure they aren’t selling to anyone underage, there may not be as much of an increase in the future.

Kennedy said they are still waiting on the results from the study from 2017-18 and she does expect an increase again but they are not sure how much of an increase.

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