The Teen Vaping Epidemic: Who is in charge of kicking the crisis?

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AUGUSTA, Ga. (WJBF) — Juling or vaping, whatever you call you probably know someone who does it. The ads will tell you that vaping is the healthier alternative to smoking cigarettes. The activity has grown in popularity since 2007. Experts say that’s because kids think vaping is safe. The experts NewsChannel 6 reporter, Devin Johnson spoke to say that’s not true.

“The Juul being a commonly used e-cigarette has twice the nicotine than other e-cigarettes,” explained the director of cancer information and awareness for the Georgia Cancer Center, Christine O’Meara.

The e-liquid in the vaporizer could contain other chemicals and liquid-based nicotine. Inhaling these can lead to lung cancer and the high risk of seizures. O’Meara and other smoke-free advocates leading the push to raise the legal age to buy tobacco, to 21.

“It’s better for the developing brain,” said O’Meara. “However, it’s unlikely people will pick-up cigarettes or e-cigarettes later in life.”

How are teens getting the vapes? In Georgia, 84% of teens say they got them from gas stations or convenience stores. While the other 16% say from friends, vape shops or online.

The devices are even showing up in your children’s schools. The Georgia Cancer Center reports e-cigarette smoking tripled among middle and high school students.

Michael Johnson is the principal of Evans High School. He says it used to be a daily struggle to spot vapes on campus but after a couple of years of education…

“Our county has done a great job of making sure that the administration has been properly trained to know what these devices look like,” said Johnson.

So Evans High started a system, with the help of the students.

“We started a campaign where if students give us information and let us know these vape pens were on campus, they would get an award. Because our goal was to get them off our campus,” explained Johnson.

For the offenders who get caught:

“The slogan was that if you vape, you cannot escape,” said Johnson.

The risk of the device exploding in your pocket or your mouth when using it is something these experts say you can’t escape.

“You are putting a firework in your mouth and sucking on it,” said Dr. Beretta Coffman. “We all know not to do that.”

Coffman says the Joseph M. Still Burn Center constantly sees patients come in with significant burns to the face and damage to their lungs.

“We have seen people whose teeth literally blown out because of the blast injury,” explained Coffman.

All alarming risks to the user’s body, on the inside and out. Principal Johnson says his main goal when catching his students with vape pens is to educate them about the dangers of using them.

“If they can complete that workshop, then they can return to class,” said Johnson.

Moms and dads, you could be part of the problem. O’Meara says if parents smoke, their kids are more likely to vape.

“If you smoke quit,” said O’Meara. “That’s the best thing you can do for your health and health of your family,”

In 2018, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration announced it may take action when it comes to the sale of flavored e-cigarettes. It all depends on whether e-cig companies can prove that they can keep their products away from minors.

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