SOUTH CHARLESTON, W.Va. — West Virginia is first in the nation when it comes to middle school children using e-cigarettes.
“These things are now being seen in middle schools and we’ve even seen them in elementary schools,” American Heart Association Communications Director Kevin Pauley said Tuesday as the AHA was preparing to have a community conversation at South Charleston Middle School.
Data shows more than 1 in 6, 17%, of West Virginia middle schoolers vape which represents a 160% increase since 2017.
The increase in vaping comes as smoking cigarettes has decreased significantly. Pauley said in 1997 1 out of every 4 high school students in the state smoked cigarettes. He said that number was 1 in 20 in 2020. Pauley said the latest data show that more than 1 in 5 high school students vape. He said they’ve believed it’s healthier than smoking.
“E-cigarettes are not approved and never have even been applied to be approved as a smoking cessation device, that’s sort of a false narrative that it’s safe. We do know e-cigarettes can contain particles that are into the lungs include formaldehyde and nickel,” Pauley said.
Pauley said every e-cigarette refill pod–if it has nicotine in it–has the exact same amount of nicotine as 20 cigarettes.
“One pack of cigarettes for every one pod of e-cigarettes,” he said.
Pauley said the marketing by the vaping companies effective. He said the pods are now being hidden in plain view.
“They look like inhalers. They look like lipstick. They look like smart watches,” Pauley said.
Even though there are laws against selling e-cigarettes to minors, there’s an easy way to get around it, Pauley said.
“You can order these things online from any number of places and they are not looking for credentials online all they need to know do you have a credit card and does that credit card work,” he said.
The American Heart Association joined with UniCare Health Plan for Tuesday night’s event. There was a panel discussion that included doctors, nurses and Cabell Midland High School student J.R. Ash.
The AHA has a national effort underway to lead the community dialogue on the issue.