@NCCapitol

@NCCapitol

Health advocates seeking to discourage teen use of e-cigs want state funding restored

Posted May 25, 2015

— For years, health advocates used prevention campaigns to stop teen smoking before it starts, but state funding for such efforts was snuffed out just as e-cigarettes started growing in popularity.

From 2011 to 2013, the number of North Carolina high school students who started using electronic cigarettes rose by an estimated 352 percent, according to a study by the state Division of Public Health.

Pam Seamans, executive director of the North Carolina Alliance for Health, said she doesn't think it's a coincidence that the spike came after state lawmakers took away the roughly $17 million a year from North Carolina's portion of the national tobacco settlement that had been earmarked for smoking cessation and educational programs, many of which were aimed at teens.

"That's a staggering increase. That tells me that there's a lack of understanding, that young people are trying them even though they''re not permitted to buy them themselves," Seamans said Monday. "We need to get some education out there to our young people."

The state now funds just $1.2 million for the QuitLineNC smoking cessation service, but in light of the state budget surplus, Seamans and other health advocates are lobbying the state Senate to include some money for e-cigarette education programs in the 2015-16 budget. The $22.1 billion spending plan that the state House passed last week didn't include any such funding.

"Electronic cigarettes are marketed to young people by flavoring them with flavors that are enticing to kids, like bubble gum and watermelon," she said.

E-cigarettes use battery-heated coils to vaporize flavored liquids. In addition to a range of flavors, they offer a variety of nicotine levels.

Addison Gagnier of Juice Vapeorium, on Chapel Hill Road in Cary, disagrees that e-cigarette vendors target teens, noting that his store obeys state law in not selling to anyone under age 18.

"Just because it's flavored doesn't mean it's geared towards kids," Gagnier said. "A lot of people come in asking for something that's sweet and fruity."

Still, he admits that he started smoking as a teen and turned to e-cigarettes as a way to quit smoking regular cigarettes.

"E-cigs are definitely a great alternative to smoking," he said. "I don't advocate underage people doing this, but from personal experience, it's hard to stop them. I'm going to do my part to make sure that I keep this stuff away from minors."

Seamans compares the growth in e-cigarette use to the dawn of smoking, hooking people long before definitive health studies showed the deadly risks.

There's not a huge body of research on the long-term health effects of e-cigarettes. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has signaled that it intends to regulate the devices, but so far, the idea is only a proposal.

"It may not be the same as exposure to cigarette smoke and inhaling cigarette smoke, but there's some risk," Seamans said. "So, as long as there's a risk, let's keep it out of the hands of our children."

4 Comments

Please with your WRAL.com account to comment on this story. You also will need a Facebook account to comment.

Oldest First
View all
  • Chase Truman May 26, 2015
    user avatar

    "Electronic cigarettes are marketed to young people by flavoring them with flavors that are enticing to kids, like bubble gum and watermelon," she said.
    Read more at http://www.wral.com/health-advocates-seeking-to-discourage-teen-use-of-e-cigs-want-state-funding-restored/14669218/#XCQB6zy20S26OqxI.99

    She has a good point here. They should really only have flavors like tar, radiator fluid, hair spray, sour milk, vomit and dog p00. Those are all flavors that only adults like. SMH.

  • Jim Wooten May 26, 2015
    user avatar

    A smear campaign being conducted by a "health advocate". Statements (and fact sheet on web site) are obviously biased but without any real data showing danger, is reduced to making obviously misleading statements.

    Ask yourself some simple questions. Do they really market these flavors to kids or do they sell them because that is what adults buy? And, if electronic cigarettes have been out for 10 years, why are there no studies on their effects? Or is it just that the unbiased studies done so far have all failed to show any negative effects.

    Do your research folks. If you don't smell a rat here, your nose is clogged up.

  • Kenny Dunn May 26, 2015
    user avatar

    Note the coincidence of the defunding with the GOP taking control of the GA. Nice job people.

  • Scott Mace May 26, 2015
    user avatar

    "Electronic cigarettes are marketed to young people by flavoring them with flavors that are enticing to kids, like bubble gum and watermelon," she said.
    Read more at http://www.wral.com/health-advocates-seeking-to-discourage-teen-use-of-e-cigs-want-state-funding-restored/14669218/#KUm3MbZKBXBjOlLj.99

    I'm trying to get my mind around how she's able to make this leap... does she not understand that adults also enjoy bubblegum and watermelon? I happen to have a couple that I like... one that tastes like grape pixie stix, and another that's a honeydew-cantaloupe mix.

    No, it's not "targeted"... it's a coincidence that kids happen to like the same things as some adults. Go figure.