Electronic cigarette use on rise with local youths

Debra Moore, Staff Writer

The Chester Progressive of Chester, California

They come in pretty containers. They taste good. They can kill a child. Their use is on the rise. "They" are e-cigarettes. Public Health Director. Mimi Hall discussed the rise of e-cigarette use in the county with the Plumas Board of Supervisors during its Jan. 20 meeting.

A recent survey revealed that 40 percent of ninth-graders and 46 percent of 11th-graders in the county have used e-cigarettes; and 28 percent and 29 percent, respectively, have used them four or more times.

"I was shocked by these results," Hall told the supervisors. The majority of the students polled thought that smoking cigarettes was harmful to one's health, but only 15 percent considered an e-cigarette harmful.

"It's being marketed as a safe alternative," Hall said. "I fully expect those numbers to rise."

What is an e-cigarette?

An e-cigarette is an electronic smoking device that delivers nicotine, but is tobacco free. It consists of a battery, avaporizing chamber, an ingredients cartridge and a tip.

The ingredients are usualy propylene glycol (the ingredient found in antifreeze) or glycerin; nicotine; and flavoring such as fruit, candy, tobacco, coffee or bacon.

Referring to the propylene glycol, Supervisor Terry Swofford said, "It's poison. Why would it be allowed?"

Hall explained that the substance is actually approved by the Food and

Drug Administration for use in some over-the-counter medications, but e-cigarettes currently aren't regulated by, the FDA.

There have been instances of young children dying from inhaling the nicotine.

"Or they drink the whole container," said Board Chairman Kevin Goss.

Some e-cigarettes are disposable, but others are refillable. And they aren't always being refilled with nicotine.

"They're learning how to put other substances in the chambers, such as heroin," Hall said.

Often e-cigarette use starts far more innocently, with just flavorings.

"They're marketing to the kids — what they look like, the flavors," Hall said.

While some e-cigarettes are easily recognizable, others are much harder to spot, making it difficult for adults to monitor their use.

In addition to direct inhalation, secondhand smoke is a concern.

Hall recounted a recent event at the public health clinic when a man was smoking an e-cigarette and was asked to stop. Initially he balked, but he eventually complied. Hall said she realized that she had no authority to compel him to stop because there is no county ordinance that prohibits the usage.

"Do we want to have an ordinance to regulate?" Hall asked the board.

Hall will work with the county's safety officer, Pat Bonnett, to develop an ordinance.

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