Vaping isn’t as safe as kids think

Kids vape because they believe it is safer than smoking, after all, that is what the vaping industry has told them.  We know what smoking cigarettes will do to the body, but what impact does vaping have on the body and what really worries the researchers?  Is it really safer?

The Juul brand seems to be what most kids are using and it has a very high dose of nicotine.  The flavors most commonly purchased by youth have 0.7mL with 5% nicotine by weight.  Juul has even admitted that one of its pods equals a pack of cigarettes worth of nicotine, but some are saying it is more like two packs of cigarettes.  And Juul uses nicotine salts which increases the hit of nicotine delivered to your blood, up to 2.7 times faster than other e-cigs.  That nicotine is giving kids more than a buzz, as 35 cases of nicotine-induced seizures have been reported.  While the number of seizures may not seem like a lot, developing a seizure after using a product is serious, and not all seizures may have been reported.

Nicotine in vaping devices can also stress the cardiovascular system, just as cigarettes.  It raises the blood pressure, speeds up the heart rate, and causes the arteries to narrow. Back in 2018 researchers weren’t sure if this would lead to long-term changes in heart rate and blood pressure, but more studies are showing that vaping could be bad for the heart.  Recent observational studies have found a link between regular vaping and an increased risk of heart attacks, strokes and coronary artery disease.

Researchers know that e-cigarettes emit microscopic particles that include heavy metals, like chromium, nickel and lead, that can travel deep into the lungs.  Our body’s defense mechanism is able to fight large particles, such as dust by coughing, but the fine particles in the aerosol don’t trigger our body in the same way.  Exposure to these tiny particles affects our cardiovascular system.

There is no combustion when you use e-cigarettes, but the vapor isn’t harmless.  It can irritate the lungs and the user can develop wheezing from the irritation.  Researchers tracked 28,000 adults to determine whether e-cigarette use made wheezing worse and when they compared users to people who didn’t smoke or vape at all, “the risk of wheezing among the vapers doubled.”  Researchers are also concerned about e-cigarette users developing chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), and lung inflammation from using e-cigarettes could worsen asthma, and “increase the risk of respiratory tract infection – like cold, flu and bronchitis.”

A randomized trial showed e-cigarettes performed better than other nicotine replacement therapy in helping people quit smoking, but only helped a small portion of participants in the vaping group quit.  Ten studies have also shown there is also strong evidence “that e-cigarettes may act as a gateway to traditional smoking with youth.”  While youth smoking has decreased in recent years, researchers don’t know if that will continue to decrease or whether we will see smoking rise in the future due to vaping.

What can you take away from all of this?  Vaping isn’t as safe as kids seem to think.  The vaping industry compares vaping to smoking cigarettes, but most of the kids who are vaping have never been smokers.  It would be better to compare vaping to breathing normal ambient air, then vaping comes out worse.   Now we just need to convince the kids the vaping industry hasn’t been truthful.

Click HERE, HERE, and HERE for more information.


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Have you checked your blood pressure lately?

There are many things you can do to get healthy, like eating right, exercise, and checking your blood pressure.  Did you know that high blood pressure affects one in three Americans and is the third leading cause of death in the U.S.?  It is called the “silent killer” because there may be no symptoms at all.  If you haven’t checked your blood pressure lately, May is a great time to start because it is National Blood Pressure Month.

Blood pressure is “the force exerted by the blood against the walls of the blood vessels,” according to Medical News Today.  Without this pressure forcing our blood through our circulatory system, oxygen and nutrients would not be sent through our bodies to our tissues and organs, and toxic waste products like carbon dioxide from our lungs and toxins we clear through our liver and kidneys would not be removed.  It allows our body to remain at a constant temperature and carries platelets that provide clotting in the event of an injury.  The condition of our arteries is just as important as the condition of our heart to maintain good blood pressure, but lifestyle choices can make a healthy blood pressure difficult to maintain.

One lifestyle change that can benefit your health is quitting smoking.  Smoking is not only bad for your lungs, it increases your blood pressure and makes you more likely to get heart disease.  The nicotine raises blood pressure and heart rate, narrows your arteries and thickens the walls, making it more difficult adequately pump the blood throughout your body.  And while many believe e-cigarettes are safer for smokers, nicotine in the e-cigarette liquids can also cause a significant increase in blood pressure and stiffening of the arteries.  E-cigarettes without nicotine did not produce a higher blood pressure.  If you are not a smoker, but are constantly exposed to secondhand smoke, you are absorbing nicotine and other harmful substances from the air around you.

There are many reasons to quit smoking and lowering your blood pressure is just one. Tobacco Free Florida has a quit plan that can help you quit your way and provide you with various options to quit.  Contact them by clicking HERE or by calling them at 1-877-U-CAN-NOW (1-877-882-6669).   Your heart and your blood pressure will thank you.

Click HERE for more information on blood pressure.


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IQOS has arrived

There is a new tobacco kid on the block called IQOS (pronounced eye-kos) that has finally been allowed to come out and play as long as they follow the rules.  The FDA has approved the first application to sell the device in the U.S., but has yet to make a decision on the second application to market it as less harmful than cigarettes.  The IQOS isn’t a new liquid vaping device; instead it heats compressed tobacco “without combustion, fire, ash, or smoke.”  The device first launched in 2014 and is sold in 40 markets around the world.

The device has three parts, a compressed tobacco insert with a filter called a “heatstick” or Heets, similar to a short cigarette, the pen-like device that heats the tobacco, and a charger.  The ceramic and gold plate blade inside the device heats the tobacco sticks up to 350 Celsius (662 Fahrenheit) according to the manufacturer which is much less than the 700 900 degrees C during puffs (1292-1652 degrees F) and between 400-580 degrees C (752-1112 degrees F) between puffs of a cigarette.  The heat inside the Heatstick is intense enough to melt a plastic piece used to cool the vapor before it reaches the user, according to independent researchers.  The picture on the right shows the gold plated heating device inside of a heatstick.  Currently, there are three flavors, Marlboro Heetstick, Smooth Menthol, and Fresh Menthol.

The products will be sold in the U.S. through Altria, and they aren’t cheap.  Prices on eBay range between $96 and $189, not including the heatsticks.  And if you want to dress up your IQOS, or maybe hide it, there are also skins available in a variety of styles like the NintendoDS skin cover to the right.  A little research on the web, and you will find other kits such as the “Iron Man” limited edition version 2018 on sale for $170 (on the left).   Did we mention you have to clean it after each stick or the stick might char?

Heatstick inserts are not cheap either.  Depending on the website, one carton of Heets (10 individual packs of 20) goes for about $89$135.  One Heet will give you as many puffs as a regular cigarette, about 6 minutes or 14 puffs before shutting off.  Sales will start in Atlanta this summer with an IQOS store and mobile stores.  The “Heetsticks, the Marlboro-branded tobacco sticks”, will be available in about 500 retail stores such as circle K, Murphy USA, Speedway and other sites.

Altria made headlines last year when they invested $12.8 billion to acquire a 35% stake in Juul, the fastest growing vaping device in the U.S. that now holds 78% of the e-cigarette market.  By joining with Altria, Juul will get prime shelf space in retail stores, but Altria had to give up their MarkTen and Green Smoke e-cigarette products and Verve oral nicotine products in order to buy into Juul.  Now with this heat-not-burn product, they hope to give smokers “healthier” options.

Philip Morris claims the IQOS (I quit ordinary smoking) system is a healthier option for smokers, but the FDA hasn’t approved the application to market it as less harmful.  Researchers claim there is a need for further safety testing.  What with the cost of the product, the need for cleaning the device after each use, and additional charging to use it after each heatstick, it is a lot of work for smokers.  Still, the IQOS has 10% of the market in Japan.  We will wait and see.

Click HERE for the article.






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Florida: Tobacco 21 is no more

If you were planning on Tobacco 21 making it through the Florida legislature, you will have to wait another year.  One of the best reasons for raising the legal tobacco age to 21 in Florida is to keep 18 year olds, who are already of legal age, from purchasing tobacco and vaping products for younger peers.  If you raise the age, you are removing one of the sources of distribution.  While we were excited about the bill, there were things the legislature added to it to make it less effective.

First, members of the legislature excluded members of the military from the age restriction.  They felt if an 18 year old could join the military, they were adult enough to make the decision whether to smoke or not.  But there are several things about that decision the legislature has not taken into consideration.  For decades, tobacco prices on military bases have been lower, making it cheaper and easier to purchase tobacco.  This isn’t being patriotic and giving our military members a break, this is targeting.  Military smoking rates are substantially higher than civilian rates and cost the Department of Defense over $1.6 billion per year including tobacco-related hospitalization, medical care and lost workdays.  It wasn’t until 2016 that DOD policy guidelines “included a rule that tobacco products sold on bases, must cost the same as those sold in nearly retail outlets,” but many have found prices on bases are still below civilian prices. Making military members part of the age restriction means protecting their lives.

Second, Florida would exempt cigars from this bill thanks to the strong cigar lobby in our state.  One of the biggest makers of cigars, “Swisher International, known for ‘Swisher Sweets,” is based in Jacksonville, Florida.  Flavored cigarettes were banned in 2009, but the number of flavored little cigars has exploded and are popular with teens. The majority of Swisher’s products aren’t hand-rolled cigars a true aficionado would smoke.  These filtered, cigarette-sized, loose leaf tobacco, highly flavored little cigars are smoked like a cigarette and marketed to kids.  Easy to find YouTube videos that show how the products are cut and the loose tobacco removed to be replace with marijuana.  The strong flavorings of the cigar paper cut the smell when burned.  New Swisher products include lunch and dinner flavors. Cigars in Florida are not taxed.

The cigar exemption doesn’t make sense, but one member of the Florida Legislature has made his family’s fortune through the family cigar business and only stepped down as CEO when he became speaker.  Vape shop owners complained raising the tobacco age to 21 would hurt their business.

The original bill would have also “decriminalized selling tobacco to minors.”  We wouldn’t have this vaping epidemic in our state if retailers would follow the law that specifically states “it is unlawful to sell, deliver, barter, furnish, or give, directly or indirectly, to any person who is under 18 years of age, any nicotine product or a nicotine dispensing device.”  The federal tobacco law is currently at 18 years of age as well, but may be raised, meaning our state would follow the federal law.

And what about those kids in rural areas like the Panhandle who are addicted to nicotine from smokeless tobacco?  Raising the age to 21 means they can’t use vaping products, which contain nicotine, to get off smokeless products.  This was a voiced concern of lawmakers, but substituting one form of nicotine for another is not the answer.  Nicotine changes the brain, especially in young teens, making the addiction stronger and affecting other body systems.

Our legislature missed the entire point of raising the tobacco age to 21.  Raising the tobacco age and keeping kids away from nicotine, the addictive substance in tobacco and vaping products, means a healthier future for our kids.  It’s time our legislature put the health of our kids and our state over the profits of the tobacco industry.

Click HERE for more information on this article.

Swisher Sweets by the carton picture from
Swisher Sweets dinner picture from Swisher Sweets Twitter account
Swisher Sweets “How to Roll” from YouTube



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E-cigarette and vaping semantics

Semantics is the study of meaning in language, and depending on how you word statements or questions, you may get different answers.  Take smoking, for example.  You may think of cigarettes, but there are other forms of smoking such as pipe, cigar and hookah.  The same could apply to the word vaping.  Teens have turned that word around and the vaping device has become the act.   Teens don’t vape, they Juul.

In trying to determine the number of teens vaping, health officials will have to specifically mention Juul as an example of an e-cigarette.  When the results of the National Youth Tobacco Survey comes out new language will specifically target Juul as one type of e-cigarette.  Those working on the survey anticipate an increase in e-cigarette use due to the updated language.

Last year government officials called teen vaping an “epidemic.  Between 2017 and 2018, high school e-cigarette use increased 78% nationally.  The previous survey named e-cigarette brands “Imperial Brands Plc’s Blu and Altria Group Inc.’s MarkTen” but didn’t include Juul.  Altria has since bought a 35% stake in Juul amounting to $38 billion and has discontinued their MarkTen brand of e-cigarette.  Juul will be added to this year’s survey and Suorin, a tear-drop shaped device that can be refilled with any e-liquid, will be added in 2020.

What made Juul so popular among teens is its use of social media.  While Facebook and Instagram don’t allow tobacco advertising, they do allow pictures of teens using tobacco and vaping products, and the hashtags would promote the device.  The Juul Twitter account refers to to them as @JUULvapor without mentioning them as an e-cigarette.  Under pressure from the FDA, the U.S. Facebook and Instagram accounts were shut down in November.

Juul product packaging now contains warning labels about nicotine and its addictive properties, but that wasn’t always the case.  Most earlier users didn’t know the product contained nicotine or was addictive.  A survey in November 2018 by Truth Initiative found 63% of Juul users 15 to 24 didn’t know the product contains nicotine.  And those who did know about the nicotine weren’t aware of potential downsides.  One 22 year old user who goes through a pod a day (nicotine equivalent of a pack of cigarettes), said that Juul has “been marketed as something not damaging to our health at all.”  Research is now showing that e-cigarettes are probably as bad as traditional cigarettes.

The FDA is trying to do damage control with ads on Hulu, Facebook and Spotify warning kids that nicotine would reprogram their brains.  And new prevention ads regarding vaping products will be on television networks starting in May.  It’s a fine line between getting adults to switch to vaping products while not encouraging teens to take up vaping.

Click HERE for the entire article.



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Will nicotine toothpicks be the next craze?

When I first started in tobacco prevention in 2011 there was the normal mix of tobacco products that you either smoked, spit, or swallowed the juices to get the nicotine.  Dissolvable tobacco products, like orbs, strips and sticks, came on the market and were going to help people use nicotine without smoking or spitting like other smokeless products but were a bust.   Hookah use among high school students in Florida became the rage for awhile and increased between 2012 – 2016, but since then numbers have fallen 26.2% between 2017 – 2018 for those who have tried it and 21.1% for those who currently use it.  Electronic vaping has taken off in our state by 361.4% between 2012-2018 for those who have tried it and 582.6% for those who currently vape.  Now an alternative nicotine product is on the market with no smoke, vapor or smell and could be hooking our kids.  It can be used in plain sight of teachers, and parents need to be aware of it….nicotine toothpicks.

These normal looking toothpicks are “infused with nicotine and flavoring agents.”   There are many different brands, but all the brands we looked at had 3.0 mg of nicotine per toothpick which claim to give you as much nicotine as a cigarette which only has 1.5mg.  These toothpicks are strong.

One former smoker who tried the Pixotine brand, said he “found it shockingly strong, with the same chest and throat burn you’d get from a couple packets of snus or a few Marlboro reds.”  He said it produced a strong buzz and he ended up with a stomach ache.  After using several of them he felt nauseous and his heart was pounding.

So what should parents know?  First of all, they come in a pouch or tube that your teen can easily put in their pocket or purse.   They are mess free and easy to use in front of teachers or parents.

Most brands like NicoPix, ZipPik, and Pixotine offer cinnamon and mint flavors, but coffee, tobacco, spice and melon flavors are also available depending on the brand.  We wouldn’t be surprised if more flavors are offered in the future.  They are easy to purchase online with Esty, eBay, vapor stores, retailers and the manufacturer offering them for sale.  And while the sites ask if you are over 18, there is no way to prove it.  The lowest price we saw was $5.00 for 20 toothpicks, but some brands offer multi-packs that will bring down the price.

The brain isn’t fully developed until the mid-20s and nicotine can have more harmful effects on a developing brain versus that of an adult.  Nicotine addiction is also one of the hardest addictions to beat.  School districts may not even know about this product, and many district policies only cover tobacco products and vaping devices and liquids.  No matter how nicotine is ingested, it is a dangerous and addictive substance.

Click HERE and HERE for more information on nicotine toothpicks.


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Tobacco Free Florida Week 2019

It’s Tobacco Free Florida Week, April 22-28.  This year’s theme is E-Epidemic: Vaping and Youth to help “educate parents, educators, pediatricians and partners on what they need to know about vaping and youth.”

Teen vaping has skyrocketed in Florida and around the U.S.  According to the 2018 Florida Youth Tobacco Survey, 37.9% of high school students have tried electronic vaping in 2018, up 18.1% between 2017-2018.  Current use of electronic vaping increased 58.0% in that one year time period.  Middle school students who have tried electronic vaping increased 18.5% during the one year time period, while those who are current users increased 44.4%  Only 4% of Florida adults are vaping, but 1 in 4 teens report vaping in our state.

Parents need to know that e-cigarette devices contain nicotine, flavorings and other chemicals that produce an aerosol that is inhaled when heated.  While some refer to the aerosol as vapor, it is not water.  Some of the flavorings used in the devices are approved as food additives, but the effects of inhaling flavorings into the lungs is not known and could be harmful long-term.

The majority of e-cigarettes liquids contain nicotine which is highly addictive.  JUUL, the most popular brand of e-cigarettes used by teens, uses nicotine salts which allows high nicotine levels to be inhaled at lower temperatures, “provides a smoother throat hit,” and makes the nicotine more absorbable.  This may cause youth to become addicted quicker compared to adults.  One JUUL pod, the liquid refill part of the device, contains as much nicotine as a pack of 20 cigarettes and can provide up to 200 puffs.

The important time for brain development is the adolescent and young adult years, which continues up to about age 25.  Nicotine exposure during this time can cause addiction and other effects “including reduced impulse control, deficits in attention and cognition, and mood disorders.”  Evidence suggests that using e-cigarettes may increase the risk of youth starting to smoke traditional cigarettes, while nicotine use may also “increase the risk of future addiction to other drugs.”

According to the Surgeon General Report on E-cigarettes and Young People, “E-cigarette use poses a significant–and avoidable–health risk to young people in the U.S.”  We can decrease teen e-cigarette use in our state by educating both parents and teens about the harms caused by the use of these products.

Click HERE for more information.

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Trinkets and Trash March 2019

Trinkets and Trash is a surveillance project that keeps tabs on what the tobacco industry is doing to advertise and market its products.  The report comes out at the beginning of the month and reports on the previous month’s activities.  Their articles are a great way to keep up with current and future tobacco and vaping products.

Natural American Spirit cigarettes is getting a jump on Earth Day which is April 22.  They have promised to “recycle half a billion littered cigarettes by 2025” and to “continue reducing our waste streams.” If you sign up for their special notifications, you will also be able to request butt pouches and get your mobile coupons.  Of course tobacco harms the earth other than air pollution and cigarette litter.  Farmers are clearing forests to plant tobacco, often times burning it.  While Natural American Spirit claims to be organic, tobacco growing is usually “one of the most chemically-intensive crops,” with fertilizers, herbicides and pesticides used during growth.  The tobacco also hurts the land due to soil erosion, chemical run off and destroying the “fertility of the soil making the land unsuitable for supporting any other crop.”  Of course the truth about tobacco isn’t pretty, but Natural American Spirit’s ad will hopefully make you forget all the other stuff that makes tobacco bad.

Just in case you didn’t know it, what you are smoking is not perfect, at least according to the ad for Vuse Alto, as they claim to have “the perfect puff.”  Through out the commercial, they refer to smoking and smokers, and they “push the possibilities of vapor,” but they don’t mention vaping or call it a vaping device.  Instead it is a “vapor product.” One interesting note is no one in the commercial is using the product.  I guess large clouds of vapor are as much of a turn-off as clouds of cigarette smoke.  The only positive about the commercial is the warning at the beginning stating their product contains nicotine and it is an addictive chemical.

Djarum Black is promoting their “cigar” through Instagram with both Madonna and Lady Gaga shown using the product.  In an  article in 2018 Madonna claims she never smoked.  And while other pictures have shown her with cigarettes in her mouth, she claims they were an “accessory.”  Lady Gaga has been in the news for the past several years with her chronic pain.  In 2010 she stated she had borderline lupus.  In 2017 she was suffering pain from Rhematoid Arthritis.  Another article mentioned it was chronic pain from fibromyalgia.  All of these fall under the label of Rheumatoid Diseases and smoking can worsen the pain.  Should Djarum Black even be called a cigar as they are the same size as a cigarette and have a filter?  True cigars don’t use filters.  But whether the product is a cigarette or a cigar, promoting smoking isn’t cool.

Tobacco marketing and advertising knows how to reach that emotional attachment in its users.  Whether it is pictures of pop stars using the product or pretending they care about the environment by providing pouches for you to put your tobacco litter in, they know how to push your buttons and keep you addicted to the product.

The tobacco industry isn’t losing money by giving you discounts and coupons.  You are keeping them in business and paying for it with your health.

Click here for the latest Trinkets and Trash news.

Posted in Big Tobacco, Cigarettes, Cigars, Diseases, E-Cigarettes | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Batting tobacco out of baseball

Yesterday was opening day for Major League Baseball, one of the earliest openings ever, and almost half of all MLB stadiums are now tobacco-free.  There was a time when baseball and tobacco seemed to go hand-in-hand and players actively used tobacco during the game.  But over time as some of the players developed serious health issues related to their tobacco use and they become anti-tobacco spokesmen, people turned against the relationship between tobacco and the game.  But just how did tobacco become synonymous with the game?

One way was through the use of cards with baseball players pictures.  Baseball started in the mid-1800s, and as photography gained popularity clubs started to pose for pictures.  Pictures of the players were printed on small cards and companies would use these pictures to promote themselves, even if it had nothing to do with baseball.  By 1875 tobacco companies started to feature cards with the leading actresses of the day, boxers, Indian chiefs, and of course baseball players of the newly formed National Baseball League’s in 1876.  The cigarette cards were used to stiffen the package and encouraged people to collect them.  As the sport developed, the cards helped make baseball players household names, as well as promoting the tobacco companies.

Tobacco companies also used in-game promotions to push their tobacco products.  One of the most successful tobacco product was Bull Durham Smoking Tobacco.  Tobacco was already widely used by the players during the games to keep their mouths moist and Bull Durham took advantage of this in their advertising.  In 1912 American Tobacco, owners of Bull Durham smokeless tobacco, set up wooden bull ads in major league stadiums around the U.S.  Any player who could hit the bull was rewarded with a $50 prize.  If a player hit a homer, they received free tobacco.  American Tobacco gave away over $23,400 worth of product and prizes, but according to Wikipedia, “it was only about 5 cents given away to baseball players for every 700 sacks of Bull Durham that were sold.”

Tobacco companies also used billboards in stadiums to promote their brands and logos.  Starting in the 1970s when advertising bans on television and radio went into effect for tobacco products, these billboards in the outfield were seen on television, providing the tobacco companies free advertising on a medium that had previously banned it.

Minor league baseball has banned smokeless tobacco since 1993, yet the majors league players fought placing a similar ban for themselves, that is until 2017 when the new collective bargaining agreement was reached.  New players to the majors won’t be able to dip, however existing players can continue the practice.  Cities that host a major league team have taken it upon themselves to make their stadiums tobacco-free while they waited for tobacco to be banned in the game.  So far almost half of the stadiums have tobacco-free policies.

We understand that as an adult it is your choice whether to use tobacco, but when millions of children watch your actions, it sends a message to them that tobacco is still part of the game.

Click HERE for the Truth Initiative article: “A look at how big tobacco infiltrated baseball”
Picture from Wikipedia: Bull Durham Smokeless Tobacco




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Kick Butts Day 2019!

Kick Butts Day, March 20, 2019, is almost here!  This national day of activism, was started by the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids in 1996, bringing students, teachers, public health advocates and other community leaders together to “organize events designed to get youth to stand out, speak up and seize control against Big Tobacco.”

Did you know that tobacco use is the leading cause of preventable death here in the U.S. and around the world?  It causes many forms of cancer, as well as heart disease and COPD, and damages nearly every organ in the human body.  Here in the U.S. more than 480,000 people die every year due to their tobacco use.

Did you know that almost 90% of adults start using tobacco as teens or even earlier?  Kick Butts Day draws attention to the tobacco industry and their deceptive marketing practices that encourage kids to start tobacco.   It is our youth and their voices that encourage their peers and others to be tobacco-free and to stand up to the tobacco industry.

Back in 2012, the Surgeon General’s Report called teen tobacco use a “pediatric epidemic,” but the focus has shifted from tobacco to e-cigarettes and vaping.  While current cigarette use among Florida high school students is at 3.6% (middle school use is at 1.3%), current use of vaping at the high school level is much higher at 24.8% (up 651.5% since 2012 and up 58% between 2017-2018) with middle school use at 7.8% (up 387.5% since 2012 and up 44.4% between 2017-2018).  Teens who have ever tried vaping is higher still.  Our teens are still battling an epidemic brought on by the tobacco industry.

It is so important that our youth continue to speak out against tobacco and an industry that is finding new ways to addict them to nicotine.  Support our teens as they use their voices to affect social change in their communities and throughout the United States.  Every day should be Kick Butts Day.

Click HERE for more information on Kick Butts Day.
Graphics from the site.



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