Vaping concerns growing among school administrators, health care providers

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GENESEE COUNTY (WJRT) (6/5/2019) - Vape pens look like GoPro cameras, USB drives, compact mirrors. And now, they're being hidden in everyday items like Pringles and pop cans.

Carolyn Chaudhary with the State Health Department said their look and the many flavors have helped vaping become the latest craze among teenagers.

"Kids don't think that it's harmful, they don't think that there's nicotine, they don't think that it's addictive, they just think that it's flavored water," she explained.

But Chaudhary said, vaping can lead to asthma, lung diseases like COPD and an addiction to nicotine.

"We know that brain development takes until you're about 25 - 26 years old," she said. "So we know that if kids are starting younger, they're getting addicted sooner; and, they'll become just a new generation addicted to tobacco."

The Genesee County Prevention Coalition hosted a vaping workshop with the GISD Thursday, bringing teachers, police and health officials together to fight what they're calling an epidemic.

"I think we're already behind it," Executive Director Lisa Fockler said. "Because I think that this is driven by the tobacco industry and they're already out front, ahead of us."

Fockler explained the data shows more students in Genesee County are vaping over a 30-day period than the national average.

"Parents need to be informed. They may be using these devices and thinking it's safe. So it's important to really be informed, understand the risk," she added.

Plus, it's important to know how to spot a vape pen.

"If you smell those flavors that you normally wouldn't smell during class, or when you're at home, definitely just maybe talk to, you know, the child and see if they're using it," Chaudhary added.

It's now illegal for people under 18 to buy or use e-cigarettes and vape pens.

Governor Gretchen Whitmer signed the set of bills calling it a step in the right direction.

She said in 2018, 21-percent of high school students across the country used e-cigarettes or vape pens.

So she just changed the Youth Tobacco Act to ban people under 18 from being able to buy or use those products.

But, the Governor explained the issue with these bills is not being allowed to classify e-cigarettes and vape pens as tobacco products.

That's how Chaudhary said the state could really crack down on the issue.

"These products can be used inside and they're not taxed, as well," she explained. "So, I think maybe if they're seen as tobacco products, then we'll be able to see more of a change with regulation."

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