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 A Potential Solution to the Youth Vaping Epidemic

On September 12, 2018, Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Commissioner Scott Gottlieb declared youth vaping an “epidemic.”  Gottlieb stated that the FDA is reconsidering their overall approach after a review of preliminary data on youth vaping. “Teenagers are becoming regular users, and the proportion of regular users is increasing,” says Gottlieb, a physician.  “We’re going to have to take action.”

In Florida, youth tobacco use remains a serious problem!  Findings from the 2016 Florida Youth Tobacco Survey suggest that approximately half of high school students (46%) and one in four middle school students (20%) report ever trying a tobacco product.  Among youth ages 11-17, e-cigarettes are now the most commonly used tobacco product (25% report ever using).  Half (50%) of youth report being exposed to secondhand smoke from cigarettes or vapor smoke from e-cigarettes.

In Nassau County, the problem remains as well! Findings from the 2016 Florida Youth Tobacco Survey suggest that one in three (34%) youth aged 11-17 in our county report ever trying a tobacco product. The proportion of youth who report currently using a tobacco product has increased from 14% in 2012 to 19% in 2016. This trend was largely driven by an increase in e-cigarette use. While the proportion of youth reporting current use of cigarettes, cigars, or smokeless tobacco declined from 12.5% in 2012 to 8% in 2016, the proportion reporting current use of e-cigarettes increased from just 1% in 2012 to 15% in 2016. More than half (56%) of local youth report being exposed to secondhand smoke from cigarettes or vapor smoke from e-cigarettes. Local school district administration has expressed concern as they continue to deal with the ramifications of the vaping epidemic.    

The issue is youth access! Why are so many kids able to obtain tobacco or nicotine products when the law says otherwise? Florida does not require a business license to sell these addictive vaping products. Because there is no business license, there is no accountability that prevents retailers from selling to minors. Lack of a business license also restricts law enforcement from doing compliance checks at vape stores. 

Local control is needed and ALL local retailers of tobacco and nicotine need to be identified with a local licensing system.  Let’s prevent another generation of tobacco and nicotine addicts! 

Tobacco Free Nassau (TFN) is a community partnership of adults and youth working together to mobilize community partners to establish long-lasting system and policy changes that promote tobacco-free social norms in order to prevent use of tobacco products, encourage and support tobacco cessation with a focus on preventing the initiation of tobacco use by youth/young adults, eliminate health hazards of secondhand smoke exposure and decrease the number of deaths related to tobacco use. “We are working to promote a tobacco-free atmosphere for Nassau County residents and to improve the health of its residents.  We work to accomplish this through tobacco prevention, education, cessation and policy promotion.  Tobacco Free Nassau also supports legislative action to reduce tobacco use and exposure,” according to Sheryl Gerhardt, Tobacco Free Nassau Chair.

Tobacco Free Nassau will be conducting a parent education session regarding youth vaping and tobacco use at Fernandina Beach Middle School in the beginning of October. The partnership continues to look for opportunities to educate the public about vaping and tobacco use, please reach out to Tobacco Prevention Program Manager Jennifer Emmons for more information.