With electronic cigarette use among middle and high school students having more than doubled over the past three years, administrators nationwide are banning these products on campus.
Electronic cigarettes, or e-cigarettes, are battery-powered devices that provide doses of nicotine and other additives in aerosol form. The FDA Center for Tobacco Products said last spring that it will regulate e-cigarettes but has not yet issued any rules. Until the FDA does more intensive testing of these products, little will be know about the chemicals inhaled or the potential impact on health.
“School administrators should tread cautiously,” says Bryte Johnson, government relations director of the American Cancer Society. “There has not been enough research done on these products, and we don’t know how safe or dangerous they are. I would put restrictions in place to make sure we don’t end up exposing a new generation of kids to a potentially significant health problem.”
More students using
Between 2011 and 2012, the percentage of high school students who reported using an e-cigarette rose from roughly 5 percent to 10 percent, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The number also doubled among middle school students during that time. In 2012, more than 1.78 million middle and high school students nationwide experimented with e-cigarettes.
These numbers are likely even higher today, as the number of products and marketing dollars spent have increased significantly since 2012, Johnson says. There are now over 250 different e-cigarette products on the market, and many of them advertise in a way that appeals to minors, he adds.
For example, some have flavors such as gumball and cotton candy. One tobacco company, Altria, recently launched an e-cigarette marketing campaigned called “Let it Glow,” which critics say is a takeoff of a song from the Disney film Frozen.
Districts including Clark County Schools in Nevada and Allentown Schools in Pennsylvania have banned e-cigarettes. In Daviess County Public Schools, a district of 10,700 students in western Kentucky, the board of education in June prohibited the products, following an April state law barring the sale of e-cigarettes to minors.
The district had previously banned tobacco products on all district campuses. “The recommendation on this issue was based first on the idea that e-cigarettes are an adult product and are not appropriate for students,” says district spokesperson Lora Wimsatt.
Springfield Public Schools in Missouri, a district of 25,000 students, also banned e-cigarettes, vaporizers and any other form of tobacco in June.
“As educators, we’re educating the whole child,” says Associate Superintendent Justin Herrell. “Part of our job is to make sure we’re helping them make good decisions, both for now and for their future. Children smoking or utilizing smoking products is not going to be positive for their health."