Despite emerging clues about the cause of vape-related illness and deaths, the cold fact remains: Breathing anything other than clean air into your lungs is harmful. Yet two of the substances most used by Union County youths — tobacco (including vapes) and marijuana — are inhaled. This is why these two substances are priorities for the Union County Safe Communities Coalition, a diverse group of community members working together for a safe, healthy and drug-free community.
Here is a critical and misunderstood fact: E-cigarettes and vapes are not safe ways to quit smoking. Vape products, like Juul, contain nicotine — significant quantities in most cases. One Juul pod has as much nicotine as a pack of cigarettes. These products are just another way for the tobacco industry to maintain addictions and hold on to customers. In fact, more than half of people who vape also smoke cigarettes.
We must continue to push for ways to protect kids from vape — and all tobacco. E-cigarettes and vape are highly addictive, and young people are using them at shocking rates. One in four Oregon 11th-graders use e-cigarettes, a number that climbed nearly 80% in just two years. Adolescent brains are particularly susceptible to addiction, and kids who use e-cigarettes are three times as likely to start smoking as their peers who don’t vape.
Let’s not be lulled by the tobacco industry into thinking vape products are safe. There are other ways we can help our friends, family and neighbors quit for good that don’t include inhaling dangerous aerosol. Anyone in Oregon can get free counseling and FDA-approved nicotine replacement therapy medication, like patches or gum, through the Oregon Quit Line. Quitting addiction is hard, and it may take people several attempts. Studies show that people who receive medication and counseling are twice as likely to succeed in their efforts to quit.
Help is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week, for both youth and adults. People can reach the Quit Line through the following contacts:
- English: 1-800-QUIT-NOW (1-800-784-8669) or quitnow.net/oregon
- Spanish: 1-855-DÉJELO-YA (1-855-335-35692) or quitnow.net/oregonsp
- Native Quit Line for Alaska Indians and Native Americans: 1-800-QUIT-NOW (1-800-784-8669), then press “7”
- TTY: 1-877-777-6534
“This is Quitting” is a free, confidential, 24/7 texting program for teens and young adults who vape. Text DITCHJUUL to 88709 or www.thisisquitting.com.
Are you the parent of a young person who vapes? Parents can text QUIT to 202-899-7550 to sign up to receive text messages designed specifically for the parents of vapers.
Until health experts can identify why people who have used these products have become seriously ill, and in some cases died, officials are recommending that no vaping product should be used. People who experience symptoms of the illness after using vaping products, such as shortness of breath, cough or chest pain, should immediately seek medical attention. Additional information can be found at www.healthoregon.org/vaping.
Carrie Brogoitti is the public health administrator for Center for Human Development and serves on the Union County Safe Communities Coalition.