Governor joins faculty on anti-vaping campaignNov 13, 2018
In a press conference at Children’s Hospital Colorado, Hickenlooper signed both a proclamation recognizing “Vape-Free November” in Colorado and an executive order that takes steps to curb vaping. Also speaking were Amy Sass, MD, associate professor of pediatrics-adolescent medicine in the CU School of Medicine and a Children’s Hospital Colorado physician; and Tista Ghosh, MD, assistant professor of epidemiology and interim chief medical officer for the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE).
Health leaders are calling the youth use of vapor products, known as vape or e-cigarettes, an “epidemic of nicotine addiction,” leaving teens at risk for long-lasting effects of exposing their developing brains to nicotine. The risks include nicotine addiction, mood disorders and decreased impulse control.
Sass said she sees firsthand evidence of vaping among her youth patients, and notes that even children in elementary school are reporting experimenting with vaping. She said misconceptions abound that vaping products are not as harmful as cigarette smoking.
One in four teens vape. “The aerosols in many of these electronic nicotine devices are equally harmful, both to the user and bystanders who are exposed to the vapors,” she said. “These are pollutants and can contain harmful chemicals including carcinogens and heavy metals.”
The executive order also makes suggestions for the Legislature to consider, including:
- Raise the minimum sales age for tobacco and e-cigarette products to 21. Coloradans must be 21 to buy alcohol or marijuana, but only 18 to purchase tobacco and vaping products.
- Prohibit the sale of flavored tobacco and vaping products in Colorado.
- Require all retailers of tobacco products, e-cigarettes and vaping products to be licensed.
- Extend the excise tax on tobacco products to e-cigarettes, vaping devices and liquids.
Ghosh said more than one in four of Colorado high school students use vaping products and almost half have experimented with them. “When our kids experiment with vaping, they think they are just using flavored water,” she said. “What they don’t realize is that almost all vapor products sold in convenience stores contain nicotine.”
Studies indicate that vaping might be an indicator for other high-risk behaviors, said Ghosh, who is an adjunct assistant professor in epidemiology for the Colorado School of Public Health. “Teens in Colorado who vape are more likely to binge drink, use marijuana, use prescription pain not prescribed to them, and engage in other risky behavior,” she said.
Hickenlooper said the nation-leading rate of teen vaping is not a distinction Colorado wants to have. “I think it would be foolhardy and irresponsible if we didn’t address this … Like so many challenges we’re trying to address with a holistic approach, we need to educated family members, friends and make sure policy makers and the whole community understands what this means.”
Immediate actions of the executive order:
- Directs the Department of Revenue to double its compliance checks of tobacco and e-cigarette retailers to ensure they are not selling to underage persons.
- Extends the current prohibition on smoking in state buildings to e-cigarettes and vaping. It also extends prohibitions on smoking and vaping to the grounds of state buildings, not just the buildings themselves.
- Directs CDPHE to issue a health advisory on e-cigarettes and vaping.
- Directs CDPHE to investigate the association between vaping and other risky behavior and identify programs to prevent those behaviors.
This story originally appeared in CU Anschutz Today.