Teen e-cigarette use on the rise in Steamboat Springs
Steamboat Springs — The trendy smoking fad of this generation’s teenage population is proving to be electronic cigarettes, according to the Centers for Disease Control statistics and those who work with teens here in Northwest Colorado.
Nationwide, e-cigarette use among middle and high school students tripled from 2013 to 2014, with 13.4 percent of high school students now admitting to use within the past 30 days, according to the CDC.
Electronic cigarettes, also called electronic nicotine delivery systems, are battery operated and typically deliver nicotine, flavorings and other chemicals in a vapor to users, though not all contain the same ingredients and not all contain nicotine. The devices are small, and often resemble a regular cigarette, pen or other small item, like a usb drive.
The interest in e-cigarettes is evident locally, according to staff at Grand Futures Prevention Coalition, a group that works to prevent youth substance abuse in Routt, Moffat and Grand counties.
“The problem is that if these e-cigarettes have nicotine, that’s highly addictive,” said Maggie Rainwater, tri-county tobacco coordinator for Grand Futures.
Rainwater said that e-cigarettes appeal to students for a handful of reasons, including the ease of playing with the light vapor they emit, which teens enjoying blowing smoke rings with.
The vapor quickly dissipates and e-cigarettes are fairly discrete in appearance, making them appealing to youth at school, who sometimes like to blow out vapor when their teacher’s back is turned, Rainwater said.
“I think the big draw for teens is the ‘vape’ tricks,” Rainwater said.
Because there is little governmental regulation of e-cigarettes, which hit the market in the United States about 2006, the short- and long-term health implications are still unclear.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration recently held three public workshops on e-cigarettes and public health and are reviewing information from an open comment period that ended in July.
Steamboat Springs High School Principal Kevin Taulman said the e-cigarette use is troublesome for many reasons, including because students try to use them inside the buildings.
“I’m noticing a lot more students using them, they’re a lot more common,” Taulman said. “It’s a tremendous problem.”
District policy for students caught using a tobacco product, including an e-cigarette, requires students are first given a warning, followed by a call to their parents, completion of an educational class on tobacco and then disciplinary action, provided they continue to get caught using the product.
Parent Judy Strnad said she is working with Steamboat Springs School District officials in hopes the district will take advantage of all the educational programming available for students, rather than suspending offenders.
These programs include Second Chances, an online, individually based program through Rocky Mountain Health and 1-800-QUITNOW, a state-sponsored tobacco cessation program for those 15 and older.
Grand Futures Routt County Program Director Adrienne Hearne said she plans to lead e-cigarette presentations at Steamboat Springs Middle School next month, and said retail tobacco compliance rates will be a central focus of the Steamboat Springs Teen Council this year, both measures she hopes will address the growing issue.
Hearne is also working to start a Routt County tobacco task force. Adults who are interested in joining can contact Hearne at 970-879-6188 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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