Vaping, or the use of e-cigarettes, has caused a health crisis, and teachers are noticing across the country that students are vaping at school or after school—sometimes right in their classrooms.
Lawmakers have been attempting to deal with the vaping crisis, especially among youth, but they have been greeted by only modest success, along with some setbacks.
New York Gov Mario Cuomo pushed emergency regulations through last month amid an increase in youth vaping and higher instances of lung illness tied to potentially illicit substances, Politico reported Friday. The vaping industry sued the state, claiming “executive overreach,” and now a judge has issued a temporary order to put the ban on hold while the case plays out.
On the same day, though, a federal judge upheld a four-month-old ban on the sale of vaping products in Massachusetts, at least for now. US District Judge Indira Talwani denied the vaping industry’s request for a temporary injunction that would have delayed the ban while the case plays out in federal court in Boston.
The plaintiffs didn’t show they were likely to succeed on the merits of the case, she said. Nor could they prove to her satisfaction that the harm they would suffer from the ban was greater than the potential harm to the respondents: The public health concerns prompting the ban would most likely outweigh any short-term impacts to local businesses, she said.
“You’re saying I ought to be more concerned about the economic harm to businesses for a two-week period than the potential people who will end up in the hospital during this two-week period?” Judge Talwani asked industry lawyers at one point during the hearing.
Anecdotal teacher reports
A few middle and high school teachers have told me, off the record, that they have personally witnessed students putting their heads down at their desk in order to use vaping products under the desk. In addition, two school districts in Kansas are suing Juul Labs, the manufacturer of an e-cigarette brand, for harm vaping has caused to students and disruption it has caused in their schools, Education Week reports.
“We have experienced an exponential rise in incidents of students vaping and causing a disruption in the learning environment,” the trade magazine quoted Dane Baxa, director of community relations for the 6,000-student Goddard district, near Wichita, as saying.
Assuming students aren’t filling their e-cigarettes with marijuana products, the danger to their health comes from the two primary ingredients found in e-cigarettes—propylene glycol and vegetable glycerin—which are toxic. In addition, vaping produces several dangerous chemicals including acetaldehyde, acrolein, and formaldehyde, which can cause lung and cardiovascular disease.
E-cigarettes are considered tobacco products by the US Surgeon General, as they contain nicotine, an addictive chemical. In addition, the Surgeon General lists other dangerous chemicals that can arise from vaping:
- ultrafine particles that can be inhaled deep into the lungs
- flavorants such as diacetyl, a chemical linked to serious lung disease
- volatile organic compounds
- heavy metals, such as nickel, tin, and lead
Finally, the Johns Hopkins University posted a web page about e-cigarettes, on which the authors say that while e-cigarettes are “less harmful” than traditional cigarettes, they are every bit as addictive, due to the presence of nicotine.
Among youth, e-cigarettes are more popular than any traditional tobacco product. In 2015, the U.S. surgeon general reported that e-cigarette use among high school students had increased by 900 percent, and 40 percent of young e-cigarette users had never smoked regular tobacco.
… There are three reasons e-cigarettes may be particularly enticing to young people. First, many teens believe that vaping is less harmful than smoking. Second, e-cigarettes have a lower per-use cost than traditional cigarettes. Finally, vape cartridges are often formulated with flavorings such as apple pie and watermelon that appeal to younger users.
Reported cases rising
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported 805 cases of lung injury related to e-cigarette use, in 46 states and one US territory, between April 2019 and September 24.