Guest Post: E-Cigarette Use Among Youth in North Carolina

E-Cigarette Use Among Youth in North CarolinaE-Cigarette Use Among Youth in North Carolina

Between 2011 and 2015, the rate of electronic cigarette (e-cigarette) use among North Carolina high school students increased 888% according to the 2015 North Carolina Youth Tobacco Survey. That is not a typo! Almost 17 percent of high school students in our state report being e-cigarette users. With such a dramatic increase in the use of e-cigarettes, it is imperative that the North Carolina General Assembly restore funding for North Carolina’s award-winning youth tobacco use prevention programs.

Though research is still being conducted to determine the long-term effects of e-cigarette use, here are some things we already know:

  • Nicotine is dangerous and highly addictive. “Research has clearly demonstrated that exposure to nicotine at a young age increases the chance that kids will become addicted. In addition to nicotine exposure, there are numerous other chemicals present in tobacco products that can cause disease.” (FDA)
  • E-cigarette aerosol is not harmless water vapor. Studies have found nicotine, heavy metals, toxins, and carcinogens in e-cigarettes.
  • Even e-cigarettes without nicotine are a health concern. Many of the ingredients—even flavorings—are known lung irritants and some may be toxic.
  • E-cigarettes comes in over 7,000 flavors, which appeal to young people. 
  • Because the adolescent brain is still developing, nicotine use during adolescence can disrupt the formation of brain circuits that control attention, learning, and susceptibility to addiction.

On April 26, 2016, Senator Stan Bingham (R – Davidson, Montgomery) introduced Senate Bill 759, Funds/Youth Tobacco Use Prevention. Senator Bingham’s bill would appropriate $250,000 to the Department of Health and Human Services, Division of Public Health, Tobacco Prevention and Control Branch for the implementation of a statewide program to educate and inform youth about the dangers of e-cigarettes and other emerging tobacco products. The program would work with adult leaders with influence over decisions made by young people, including pediatricians, family practice physicians, school nurses, and parents, to provide them the resources to empower youth to avoid using tobacco products. While $250,000 is not the $17.3 million that such programs once had, it is a step in the right direction to protect our youth from the dangers of e-cigarettes and other emerging tobacco products.

Additionally, last week, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) took a big step by beginning the process of regulating e-cigarettes, cigars, hookah, pipe tobacco, and other tobacco products. While it is certain that these regulations will improve health and protect future generations, it will be several years before this regulation is in full force.  Thus, the North Carolina General Assembly must take steps to protect the health of our young people by once again funding tobacco use prevention programs in North Carolina. 


Morgan Wittman Gramann is the Managing Director at the North Carolina Alliance for Health and can be reached at morgan@ncallianceforhealth.org or 919.463.8329.



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