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Among Whatcom County teens, this habit is increasing and that worries health officials

The risk of e-cigarettes for young people

This video from the Office of the U.S. Surgeon General advises parents to "Know the Risks," and highlights how e-cigarettes have the potential to cause lasting harm to the health of young users, especially their brain development.
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This video from the Office of the U.S. Surgeon General advises parents to "Know the Risks," and highlights how e-cigarettes have the potential to cause lasting harm to the health of young users, especially their brain development.

Vaping among Whatcom County teenagers has increased significantly — a trend that’s being seen statewide and nationally.

That was among the findings of the Washington State 2018 Healthy Youth Survey, which was released this week.

The survey also found that cigarette, alcohol and marijuana use among youths have declined or stayed flat in recent years, including in Whatcom County.

But the sharp increase in teens who were vaping e-cigarettes worried public health officials, including in the Whatcom County Health Department.

E-cigarettes are battery-operated metal or plastic tubes that have a cartridge filled with liquid containing nicotine, flavoring, solvents and other chemicals that are heated until the liquid turns into a vapor, which is then inhaled.

“We’re concerned about the recent vaping trend and that so many youth aren’t aware of the dangers of vaping. But it’s important to know that parents and guardians are the biggest influence on a child’s decision about substance use,” Joe Fuller, the health department’s prevention specialist, said in a news release.

The report delves into youth health and habits across a range of topics, but the jump in youth vaping was a concern at the county and state level.

Whatcom County highlights include:

In 2018, 27 percent of Whatcom County 10th-graders and 38 percent of 12th-graders used vapor products.

That was higher than the statewide rate, which was 21 percent of 10th-graders and 30 percent of 12th-graders statewide.

The survey results showed that vaping among Whatcom County 10th-graders has more than doubled since 2016, when 12 percent reported that they vaped.

Public officials were particularly concerned that just 36 percent of Whatcom County 10th-graders believe vaping was harmful.

That’s “despite the presence of nicotine, an addictive substance that can harm brain development in youth, in most vapor liquids,” the Whatcom County Health Department said in the news release.

Public health officials want parents and guardians to discuss e-cigarette with their teens.

“By talking to their teens about risks and the fact that most of their peers make healthy choices, parents can change perceptions and discourage use,” Fuller said. “Sometimes it seems like teens aren’t listening to what parents say, but they are. It makes a real difference when you talk to your kids.”

In 2016, vaping, like smoking, was banned in bars, restaurants and other public places throughout Whatcom County.

At that time, county public health officials said the ban was needed for reasons that included increased use by youths, and concern over health risks related to nicotine addiction and exposure to secondhand chemicals for those not vaping.

In November 2015, Bellingham banned smoking and vaping in any city park, trail or open space over concerns about the impact of secondhand smoke.

Every two years, the Washington State 2018 Healthy Youth Survey asks students in sixth, eighth, 10th and 12th grades about their health behaviors in categories that range from substance abuse to mental health and school climate.

Read the report

The full Washington state 2018 Healthy Youth Survey is online at askhys.net.

See the Whatcom County report online at whatcomcounty.us/360/Health-Department.

Learn more at https://escapethevape.org

Kie Relyea has been a reporter at The Bellingham Herald since 1997 and currently writes about social services and recreation in Whatcom County. She started her career in 1991 as a reporter and editor in Northern California.

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