The Examiner

Youth Use of E-Cigarettes Discussed at Lowey Roundtable

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Congresswoman Nita Lowey

Undaunted by a recent legislative defeat, Congresswoman Nita Lowey (D-Harrison) said she wanted several steps to be taken to discourage young people from using electronic cigarettes.

At her office in White Plains on Wednesday, Lowey conduced a roundtable discussion featuring several local officials who work with youths, as well as local high school students, to discuss the issue, which the panel called a health risk.

Republicans on the House Appropriations Committee recently rejected Lowey’s amendment, which would have protected the Food and Drug Administration’s ability to regulate the chemicals and batteries used in e-cigarettes.

“These products shouldn’t be on the market without us knowing what’s in them,” Lowey said Wednesday.

“There is really an epidemic level” of e-cigarette use among American youths, Lowey said. “While federal law prohibits the purchase of tobacco products by teens under the age of 18, many underage minors are buying e-cigarettes and related products in vape shops and via the Internet,” she added.

Lowey said she did not believe the 2015 study that indicated 16% of American youth use e-cigarettes because that figure is too low. There is marketing by vape shops and cigarette companies being done to promote e-cigarette use by youths, she said, noting some of the vaping liquids have names like Froot Loops, Swedish Fish and Gummy Bears.

“The vaping liquids contain “addictive chemicals we may or may not be aware of. There is a misconception that e-cigarettes are safe even if they utilize nicotine, which can alter the development of the adolescent brain,” Lowey emphasized.

A report from the office of the US surgeon general stated, “All Americans need to know that e-cigarettes are dangerous to youth and young adults,” Lowey said, adding that young people that start out with e-cigarettes have been shown to move on to other tobacco products.

“Your voices are critical. Your knowledge is critical,” Lowey told members of the roundtable.

Pleasantville Superintendent of Schools Mary Fox-Alter said her district has been concerned about the expected opening of a downtown vape shop.

The announcement that The Glass Room would be opening a fourth location in the space formerly occupied by a Verizon store at 69 Wheeler Ave., concerned local officials and residents have been collaborating in hopes of strengthening regulations regarding the sale of e-cigarettes and vaping chemicals.

“It became a call to action,” Fox-Alter said, noting the store is within a five-minute walk of the district’s high school.

Fox-Alter said Wednesday that during a morning meeting the previous day, the Pleasantville Board of Education approved the Use and/or Promotion of Tobacco Products, E-Cigarettes or Vaping to Adolescents and Young Adults resolution, calling for education on the dangers of vaping; getting e-cigarettes regulated and obtaining information about what is in e-cigarettes; changing zoning so vape shops would not be located near facilities for youths including schools; and calling on governments to raise the age to buy tobacco products from the current age of 18 to 21.

During the Pleasantville district’s back to school night for the middle and high schools there will be a classroom created called “Hidden in Plain Sight,” which will give parents the opportunity to see e-cigarettes and how they can be hidden by students who use them, Fox-Alter said.

Dr. Richard Stumacher, a pulmonary disease specialist from Northern Westchester Hospital in Mount Kisco, said the amount of nicotine contained in vape liquids, to his knowledge, is not regulated. An e-cigarette user can modify how much nicotine is in the liquid, he said.

Stumacher has been involved in smoking cessation programs for about nine years.

“To me this is an addition,” he said. “By selling e-cigarette products, we’re selling addiction. And nicotine is the most additive chemical known to mankind. And what we’re doing now is marketing it toward our children.”

Stumacher said his son told him that at his school classmates are initially attracted to vaping because they like the flavors of the vaping liquids “and they move on to the nicotine.” He added other chemicals used in vaping liquids are also dangerous and e-cigarettes can also be used to smoke marijuana.

Colleen Anderson, coordinator of the Cortlandt Community Coalition, said her group has been using a federal grant for programs for students in the Lakeland and Hendrick Hudson School Districts. A public service announcement was being completed on the day of the roundtable discussion created by the Community Coalition that will be shown on the screens of the Cortlandt Town Center multiplex and on Facebook to discourage youths from using e-cigarettes. “Our kids don’t think there’s any harm in it,” Anderson said.

Frank Williams, executive Director of the White Plains Youth Bureau, said the City of White Plains is working with the school district “to address how we can better combat vaping. Students and parents need to work on strategies to fight vaping among youths. Parents and their children must find ways to better communicate about vaping. It will essentially affect brain development going forward,” he said.

Some local students participated in the discussion, also seeking to end youths from using e-cigarettes.

Joe Kennedy, who will be entering his sophomore year at Iona Prep this fall, said, “I think that a lot of kids really don’t know the effects of vaping and what’s in these things.” Some of his peers do not want to know the downsides of vaping, Kennedy said.

Louis Melendez, who will be entering his junior year at White Plains High School in September, said many of the students at his school vape. “It’s a very big issue,” he said. “There are many students who cut class just to go vape and they’re very ill informed about the effects of e-cigarettes.”


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