COLUMBUS — Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine and Peter Shields, MD, Deputy Director of The Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center – James Cancer Hospital and Solove Research Institute (OSUCCC – James) August 21 warned parents about the risks of e-cigarette use among children and young adults.
“The beginning of a new school year is a perfect time to ask parents this question: ‘Do you know what’s in your child’s backpack?’” Attorney General DeWine said. “E-cigarettes are now likely to be found among the school supplies of an increasing number of kids. Many e-cigarette products could be easily mistaken for pens, highlighters, or other common school supplies. We want to alert parents and protect young people.”
“We know that tobacco addiction often begins in youth – nine out of 10 adult smokers in Ohio began smoking before age 18,” said Dr. Shields, of the OSUCCC – James. “Smokeless tobacco products are especially concerning because they are very attractive to youth and tobacco companies actively deploy marketing tactics aimed at encouraging dual use of smokeless tobacco with cigarettes to this audience. In addition, e-cigarettes have gained such rapid popularity that the medical community hasn’t had time to assess their health risks.”
E-cigarettes, or electronic cigarettes, are battery-operated products that heat liquid nicotine and other chemicals into a vapor that is inhaled by the user (sometimes called “vaping”).
In the last few years, e-cigarette use by young people has skyrocketed. According to the National Youth Tobacco Survey, e-cigarette use among high school students increased nearly 800 percent from 2011 to 2014. Similar increases were observed among middle school students.
At the same time, calls to poison control centers about e-cigarette and liquid nicotine exposure increased more than 1,200 percent, from 271 calls in 2011 to 3,738 calls in 2014, according to the American Association of Poison Control Centers. More than half of reported exposures involved children under the age of six.
Children who drink or are exposed to liquid nicotine can experience nausea, vomiting, or other serious illness. One teaspoon of concentrated liquid nicotine could kill a 1-year-old child. Last December, a 1-year-old in New York died after swallowing liquid nicotine.
Additionally, studies suggest that teenage brains are permanently affected by nicotine exposure, with possible long-term cognitive and mood results.
In recent years, e-cigarette marketing expenditures have increased from an estimated $6.4 million in 2011 to more than $59.3 million in 2013, and e-cigarette marketers employ many of the same techniques that big tobacco companies used to sell cigarettes to young people, including:
• Appealing flavors, including candy and fruit flavors
• Cartoon advertisements
• Placement in social media, movies, and TV
• Event sponsorships, including music festivals, NASCAR, and the World Series of Poker
• Free samples
• Celebrity endorsements
Attorney General DeWine has led a bipartisan coalition of attorneys general in urging the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to regulate e-cigarettes and related products in the same way cigarette and other tobacco-product advertising is regulated. He also has urged companies selling e-cigarettes to act in a responsible manner, including limiting youth exposure to e-cigarette marketing.
DeWine has a long record of protecting Ohio kids from underage tobacco use. As a U.S. Senator, he sponsored legislation granting the FDA authority over the marketing of tobacco products to kids. As Ohio Attorney General, he supported legislation in the Ohio General Assembly to ban the sale of e-cigarettes to those under age 18, a measure Gov. John Kasich signed into law in 2014.
Ohio State University Center of Excellence in Regulatory Tobacco Science (CERTS) is one of 14 centers nationwide dually funded by the National Institutes of Health and FDA through a new federal initiative aimed at putting science behind the FDA’s role in regulating tobacco.
The university-wide research program takes into account the biological, psychological, economic, and public health implications associated with tobacco use and the industry’s marketing of products to consumers. CERTS includes a total of 18 scientists from six colleges and The OSUCCC-James.
Through CERTS, Ohio State aims to reduce tobacco addiction and shed light on health problems arising from tobacco use among youths and adults in rural and urban settings, and to decrease tobacco-related harm by studying individual disease risk and the prevalence of product use – with a focus on dual use (smokeless tobacco and cigarettes) and new and emerging tobacco products like e-cigarettes.