By JANELLE HOM
While the headlines focus on the global COVID-19 pandemic, there is an epidemic that threatens our youth here in Orlando that can’t be forgotten. Teen e-cigarette use is skyrocketing and has the potential to create a new generation addicted to deadly tobacco products.
In Orange County, more than 15% of high school students used e-cigarettes in 2019, and across the state, it is more than 25%. With kids back in school, more students may experience social pressure to vape, while others may begin to vape in response to stress, including stress related to COVID-19.
The American Lung Association has been raising the alarm about e-cigarettes and urging FDA to take action to protect the public and our kids for more than 10 years. Vaping harms developing lungs and overall health and may place people at an increased risk for severe illness from COVID-19. Just last year, there were thousands of reported cases of vaping-related lung injuries across the U.S.
Our community needs support to reduce e-cigarette use, so earlier this month, the Lung Association launched a comprehensive plan to end youth vaping. This plan includes four components:
- “Get Your Head Out of the Cloud” public awareness campaign with the Ad Councilequips parents with the facts about e-cigarettes and supports conversations before kids start to vape. The campaign includes free educational resources and guides, conversation starters and facts about vaping at TalkAboutVaping.org.
- Vape-Free SchoolsInitiative to help school administrators and educators address the surge of youth vaping through guidance in implementing a comprehensive tobacco use policy, an alternative to suspension program for students found non-compliant with existing tobacco use policies, as well as offering a voluntary youth-centered tobacco cessation program, including vaping cessation assistance, for youth wanting to quit tobacco use for good. Participating schools will be recognized as part of the Lung Association Vape-Free Schools Initiative in their communities and with parents and staff.
- Targeted advocacy planto advance proven e-cigarette policies at local, state and federal levels.
- $2 million research investmentto understand the effects of vaping on developing lungs. The organization is also partnering with Northwestern Medicine in a $25 million National Institutes of Health (NIH)-funded grant to study the longitudinal lung health of millennials, including the long-term impact of vaping.
We urge local educators to get involved, parents to speak with their kids about e-cigarettes, and the community to tell local lawmakers that we need more laws to protect our youth from e-cigarettes.
Learn more at TalkAboutVaping.org.
Janelle Hom who serves as the Executive Director for the American Lung Association in Florida – Central Area has been with the organization since 2008. Janelle holds a Master of Arts in Political Policy and Analysis from UCF and a Bachelor of Arts in Government and World Affairs from the University of Tampa
Janelle serves on the Florida Board of Respiratory Care whose function is to ensure that every Respiratory Therapist practicing in this state meets minimum requirements for safe practice. She can be reached at Janelle.Hom@lung.org