November is Tobacco Awareness Month!

Tobacco use is the leading preventable cause of death in the United States, and most adults who use tobacco regularly start before they turn 18. Preventing the use of tobacco products by youth, or equipping those who use with resources and support to quit, is critical to keeping our young people safe and healthy.

In 2019, 32% of Bennington County high school students reported vaping in the past 30 days, and 9% reported using cigarettes.

While cigarette smoking is declining among Bennington youth, vape and e-cigarette use is rising locally and nationally.

A recent study from the FDA and the CDC estimated that more than 2 million U.S. middle and high school students reported currently using e-cigarettes in 2021, with more than 8 in 10 of those youth using flavored e-cigarettes.

Youth use of tobacco products in any form is unsafe (CDC). E-cigarettes are the most highly used tobacco product among youth in Vermont. E-cigarettes contain the drug nicotine, which is highly addictive and can harm developing youth brains. A single JUUL pod contains as much nicotine as a pack of cigarettes! Teens who vape are more likely to start smoking cigarettes, and using nicotine in adolescence may also increase risk for future addiction to other drugs.

Half of Vermont high school students report always or most of the time seeing an advertisement for tobacco when they go to a gas station, supermarket, or convenience store (2019 YRBS). Youth exposure to tobacco products and advertisements increases brand recognition, which increases odds of smoking, and perpetuates social norms about tobacco use.

Limiting tobacco retailers and prohibiting retailers from locating near youth-sensitive areas, as well as other environmental strategies such as smoke-free zones around schools and public places, contributes to lower rates of tobacco product use among youth and advances health equity for all.

The good news? 68% of Bennington high school students weren’t vaping and 91% weren’t smoking cigarettes (2019 YRBS).

For teens who are thinking about quitting vape and other nicotine products, check out truth and My Life My Quit for online resources to support you, or text “Start My Quit” to 36072 to chat with a Coach.

Resources for Parents and Caring Adults:

Vape Waste: What You Need to Know

Vapes aren’t only harmful to our bodies—they’re damaging the environment as well. Vape waste is three forms of waste in one: plastic waste, hazardous waste, and electronic waste (e-waste).

Many vape cartridges, or pods, are single-use plastics. Many vape pods, like JUUL, are not refillable or reusable, and cannot be recycled. As vaping is on the rise, so is vape litter. E-cigarette and e-liquid waste are considered hazardous waste.

E-liquid contains nicotine, which is listed by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency as an acute hazardous waste. Vape devices can also leach lead and mercury, as well as other toxic chemicals, into the ground or waterways, where it can become a danger to wildlife and humans.

Vape devices contain a circuit board and batteries, which become e-waste. Vape devices contain a circuit board and lithium ion batteries, and should be disposed of with e-waste, but many users simply toss their devices in the trash. As batteries degrade, they can leach toxic compounds. Lithium ion batteries have also been linked to explosions in recycling trucks when batteries are not properly disposed of.

FDA’s Tips for Safe Disposal of E-Cigarettes and E-Liquid Waste »

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