State and county health leaders say more teenagers in Montana are using e-cigarettes, and now they’re warning parents about the health effects.
The Montana Tobacco Use Prevention Program and Lewis & Clark Public Health held a community forum on youth e-cigarette use on Thursday evening at Capital High School.
A 2015 survey by the Office of Public Instruction shows almost half of Montana high schoolers have tried e-cigarettes at least once. Around 30 percent said they had used one within the last 30 days. That’s more than double the number of students smoking traditional cigarettes.
Officials say most e-cigarettes contain nicotine, which can affect brain development in young people. They also warned that teenagers who use e-cigarettes might be more likely to start using other tobacco products.
In Montana, retailers aren’t allowed to sell e-cigarettes to anyone younger than 18. But Nicole Aune, manager of the Tobacco Use Prevention Program, says manufacturers have made the products especially attractive for teenagers.
“They think they’re safe, and they’re curious about them because they come in all these different flavors and kind of a cool gimmick to them,” Aune said. “In fact we’re finding that they’re not a whole lot different from cigarettes.”
Officials say Montana has one of the highest rates of youth e-cigarette use in the country.
The National Institute on Drug Abuse says of e-cigarettes:
Electronic cigarettes (also called e-cigarettes or electronic nicotine delivery systems) are battery-operated devices designed to deliver nicotine with flavorings and other chemicals to users in vapor instead of smoke. They can be manufactured to resemble traditional tobacco cigarettes, cigars or pipes, or even everyday items like pens or USB memory sticks; newer devices, such as those with fillable tanks, may look different. More than 250 different e-cigarette brands are currently on the market.
While e-cigarettes are often promoted as safer alternatives to traditional cigarettes, which deliver nicotine by burning tobacco, little is actually known yet about the health risks of using these devices.
Although they do not produce tobacco smoke, e-cigarettes still contain nicotine and other potentially harmful chemicals. Nicotine is a highly addictive drug, and recent research suggests nicotine exposure may also prime the brain to become addicted to other substances.