Still concerning: Vaping dangers discussed at Charlevoix community forum

Petoskey News Review

Steve Foley

CHARLEVOIX — It’s a trend that’s not only become increasingly concerning in Northern Michigan, but for teenagers across the country.

It’s vaping, also known as “Juuling.”

A relatively new phenomenon among different high school and even middle school students, vaping involves use of an electronic cigarette. A battery-powered coil in this device helps turn a liquid solution into an inhalable aerosol. Technology associated with vaping continues to evolve, making it challenging for parents, caregivers and school administrators to stay on top of current trends.

 

Vaping was the focus during a community open forum hosted by Charlevoix Public Schools on Monday at the Charlevoix Middle/High School auditorium. Presenters at the event — including Corey Hebner, trooper with the Michigan State Police Gaylord Post; Susan Pulaski, community health coordinator with the Health Department of Northwest Michigan and project coordinator for SAFE in Northern Michigan; and Scott Kelly of B.A.S.E.S. Teen Center in Charlevoix — spoke to some 50 parents and community members about vaping and the ever-continuing change in its culture.

“We had a huge explosion just in the past year and a half in vapes,” Hebner said. “It doesn’t matter what school district you’re in ... Beaver Island, which doesn’t have any vapes in their stores, has them because of mail orders.

“It’s amazing how this problem has taken over schools and they’re all going over the same problems and issues,” Hebner said. “In Petoskey, one bathroom is called the ‘JUUL pad.’”

The JUUL has over time become one of the more popular vaping devices, as it closely resembles a USB flash drive and can even be charged with the USB port of a computer.

“What we saw with JUUL was they were marketing specifically to SnapChat and Instagram,” Hebner said. “That’s important because our kids, about 90 percent of what they use and consume is recommended by a friend. They don’t watch TV like we used to and commercials don’t effect them.

“When they get advertised on SnapChat and Instagram, it’s like they’re fishing with dynamite,” Hebner said. “Instead of getting a hook and going to your favorite pond, they’re getting a fish finder and using dynamite.”

Touted by some early on as a a tobacco cessation device for traditional smokers, e-cigarettes and vapes initially did not raise cancer-related health concerns like those associated with traditional cigarettes.

“Because it wasn’t a burned tobacco,” Hebner said. “In 2014 and 2015, vapes became very popular, mod sticks became popular and part of the culture was hot boxing in cars, making as much vapor as you can.”

The devices are also extremely popular because they can be easily concealed.

“You can hide it in your pocket or sleeve, they’re very stealthy,” Hebner said. “That and you only need one or two hits.”

Hebner said while the JUUL brand remains popular, the manufacturer announced Nov. 14 they will stop selling flavored pods — including mango, cucumber, fruit and creme — from stores which may attract young users.

Tobacco, menthol and mint-flavored pods will still be available. Also, the company said it’s shutting down it’s Facebook and Instagram accounts as CEO Kevin Burns said the company and the Food and Drug Administration “share a common goal — preventing youth from initiating on nicotine.”

“JUUL understands flavoring may be more addictive than nicotine itself,” Hebner said. “The FDA thinks this was a big deal of them shutting down Facebook and Instagram, but they still have Snapchat and Snapchat is a big thing for kids.

Hebner said parents and kids need to understand JUULs or vapes are not a sensation device, but rather a drug delivery tool.

“It doesn’t matter if it’s nicotine, e-juice or if it’s concentrated THC,” Hebner said.

Pulaski oversees SAFE in Northern Michigan, a local collaboration of community leaders from various sectors working to combat youth substance use in the region’s communities. SAFE is active in about 11 schools around Antrim, Charlevoix and Emmet counties, and Pulaski said the group of about 75 youth involved identified vaping as the top issue they wanted to address this spring.

“When the MiPHY (Michigan Profile for Healthy Youth) results came out in June, it was quite alarming,” Pulaski said.

The anonymous survey asked students to identify which substances they have used in the 30 days prior to their question responses.

Vaping was a new category in the questionnaire. Data showed that during the 30-day time frame leading up to the survey, 23.7 percent of Antrim County high-school youths had used the electronic cigarette device. Among Emmet County high-school youths, 24.7 percent had used such devices, while 35.2 percent of Charlevoix County high-school youth had vaped.

“Those numbers are really high numbers,” Pulaski said. “It was the first time MiPHY asked those questions and those questions didn’t ask the perception of risk or parental approval. We had to look at other questions.”

Pulaski said survey data revealed many students who had vaped in the previous 30 days borrowed it from someone else.

“What we found out is one kid will share it in the bathroom, and not only are they sharing the one product but the same mouthpiece which presents other health risks,” Pulaski said.

As a result, SAFE in Northern Michigan decided to come up with an “Escape the Vape” campaign, which debuted in April and May and makes use of public service announcements and digital outreach.

 

Through digital advertising and geofencing, the campaign had some 100,000 impressions in April and May and another 75,000 targeted digital displays.

“The cool thing about digital ads is once you’ve seen an ad, it will follow you home,” Pulaski said. “Hopefully, they didn’t just see it once or twice.”

The PSAs, which featured different students, also showcased the various chemicals that are in vape products.

“The misperception is it’s just water,” Pulaski said. “Kids don’t understand vape is not just water, it’s actually an aerosol that has a lot of chemicals that are used when heated.”

Pulaski said new PSA’s are in the works within the next several months regarding vaping.

Kelly said the best thing communities and parents can do to help combat vaping is to provide teens with safe, nurturing people and a safe, nurturing environment.

“Their lives are really changing,” Kelly said. “As adults, we need to try to be as stable as you can be.”

Kelly said the majority of teens he does evaluations who have been caught with vaping with have never tried alcohol or marijuana.

“The kids that are being caught are not the druggies, they’re not using, they’re not skilled in deceptive things,” Kelly said. “They’re looking to connect socially to other kids. They’re the ones doing it in the hallways, on the bus, with the camera on them. They’re not criminals, they’re kids trying to fit it.”

Kelly noted a key aspect in helping teens is to promote a “Help Someone Learn My Plan” strategy for making good decisions. In this terminology, H represents health, S represents safety, L represents legality and “My Plan” refers to whether an activity fits into the plans of youth and their parents.

“A lot of kids think it’s a safer alternative to cigarettes, but it’s not,” Kelly said. “A JUUL pod with 40 milligrams is equivalent to about a pack of traditional cigarettes.

“We as a community need to help them understand the risks,” Kelly said.

“We have to get the message out so they are educated.”

 
Follow Steve Foley on Twitter @SteveFoley8

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  • Fact:  Michigan had 2,335 overdose deaths in 2016. 1,689 were opioid-related, up from 1,275 opioid-related deaths in 2015.
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