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Tuesday, December 18 , 2018, 7:44 pm | Fair 52º


Santa Barbara District Moving to Ban Electronic Cigarettes as Use Rises Among Students

Electronic cigarettes are becoming increasingly popular among middle and high school students, and the Santa Barbara County Public Health Department is working with school districts and cities to add the devices to ordinances regulating tobacco products and secondhand smoke.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released information last week that found that the use of e-cigarettes doubled between 2011 and 2012 among middle and high school students. Use of small, flavored cigars has been increasing as well.

The e-cigarettes are battery-powered and provide doses of nicotine or other additives in aerosol form, according to the CDC.

The Santa Barbara Unified School District's Board of Education talked last week about altering its tobacco policies to include these devices. Dawn Dunn with the county’s Tobacco Prevention Settlement Program handed out “hookah pens” for them to look at, noting that they are colorful, small and look like toys or pens, adding that they’re very difficult to detect since the vapor is odorless.

Dunn noted that it’s illegal for anyone younger than age 18 to purchase them, and the Food and Drug Administration doesn’t yet regulate these products.

“This is not something you want unchecked on your school campuses,” she said.

The Santa Barbara County Education Office invited Public Health to speak as experts on the topic, and Dunn and others have been going to districts and cities to talk about including e-cigarettes in all tobacco-related policies.

“We didn’t push for it; this was something they thought of on their own,” health educator Grace Alderson said.

Santa Barbara Unified’s proposed language prohibits all electronic nicotine delivery systems “such as electronic cigarettes, electronic hookahs and other vapor emitting devices, with or without nicotine content, that mimic the use of tobacco products.”

The CDC reported that e-cigarette use rose from 0.6 percent to 1.1 percent in middle school students from 2011 to 2012, and from 1.5 percent to 2.8 percent in high schools. Hookah use rose from 4.1 percent to 5.4 percent between 2011 and 2012, according to the 2012 National Youth Tobacco Survey.

The CDC doesn’t recognize e-cigarettes as smoking cessation aids, saying there is “no conclusive evidence” that they promote long-term quitting, though some of the e-cigarettes are marketed that way.

Public Health went to Goleta’s Ordinance Committee about its secondhand smoking ordinance and is asking the city — and will ask the county and Santa Barbara — to include emissions from electronic nicotine devices, Alderson said. Her department has concerns about the chemicals being inhaled from these products as well, especially since they aren’t regulated.

People can put hemp oil, marijuana and other drugs in the devices and smoke them without any odor because of the vaporizing effect, Alderson said.

Santa Barbara City College went entirely smoke-free in July and its ban includes e-cigarettes, and the entire University of California system is going smoke- and tobacco-free in January.

The products are “insanely popular” but hard to detect, so people get away with using them in places such as schools where they would get caught using traditional tobacco products, Alderson said.

The stealth level is a draw for people, and the e-cigarettes are marketed in a way for people to start smoking in a more socially-acceptable way since they are less of a nuisance and are odorless, she said.

They are also flavored and smell like candy or fruit, and young people can easily buy them online, she said.

The county’s Tobacco Prevention Settlement Program has education and enforcement services to help prevent young people from starting tobacco use, helping smokers and other users quit, and protecting the public from harmful effects of secondhand smoke.

Noozhawk staff writer Giana Magnoli can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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