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Why Charlotte youths smoke less but use e-cigarettes and marijuana more

The Vapor Girl’s owner shows how e-cigarettes work

Victoria Sylvestre, co-owner of The Vapor Girl, explains how electronic cigarettes create vapor. Sylvestre and her husband Marc own five vapor shops in the Triangle area. Video by Virginia Bridges/ vbridges@newsobserver.com
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Victoria Sylvestre, co-owner of The Vapor Girl, explains how electronic cigarettes create vapor. Sylvestre and her husband Marc own five vapor shops in the Triangle area. Video by Virginia Bridges/ vbridges@newsobserver.com

Charlotte youths are smoking fewer cigarettes than ever before, but using electronic cigarettes more, according to a new report.

While the Youth Drug Survey of middle and high school students from Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools found just 3.3 percent of respondents had smoked cigarettes over a 30-day period, nearly 13 percent had consumed e-cigarettes.

Researchers from the Center for Prevention Services and UNC Charlotte called the e-cigarette trend “alarming.” The report noted that 34 percent of white youths reported smoking e-cigarettes, nearly double the next highest racial group.

A national panel of public health experts released a report in January that found that vaping with e-cigarettes that contain nicotine can lead to addiction and increase the risk of teen smoking, according to a January 2018 New York Times report.

The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine concluded there are no long-term scientific studies of the devices’ effects on the heart, lungs or on reproduction, the report said.

In North Carolina, it is against the law for people under the age of 18 to buy tobacco products, including e-cigarettes.

Andrew Reynolds, a social work professor at UNC Charlotte who conducted the Charlotte survey, told the Observer that the popularity of e-cigarettes among youths is concerning. The flavors in the product have been linked to chemicals that can have negative health-effects, Reynolds said.

“You don’t know exactly what you are consuming,” he said. “How much nicotine do they contain?”

A man was rushed to Community Regional Medical Center in December 2016 after his e-cigarette apparently exploded in his pocket while he was riding a FAX bus in downtown Fresno, California. Witnesses said the man was trying use the device while rid

But overall, Reynolds said, the survey results are encouraging.

Researchers collected survey responses from more than 10,000 sixth, eighth, 10th and 12th graders from CMS schools. The results were released last week.

The results show public awareness about the dangers of smoking and drinking helping more youths avoid traditional cigarettes and alcohol, Reynolds said. Alcohol use also dropped to 12.9 percent from 15. 9 percent in 2015, the last time the survey was conducted, Reynolds said.

This marked the first time in the survey’s history, dating back to 2002, that marijuana use (13.3 percent) outstripped alcohol, Reynolds said.

“Youth today are safer than in the past,” he said. “The work of prevention has had a major impact.”

The Charlotte survey reflected national and state trends. A national survey last year found traditional cigarette use among youths in decline. The use of e-cigarettes as a vaping device far exceeded smoking traditional cigarettes, the report said.

Charlotte researchers found a “strong relationship” between e-cigarette use and access to the product, peer disapproval and the perceived risk.

Clasen-Kelly: 704 358-5027; @fred_ckelly
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