Great American Smokeout encourages smokers to quit

FDA recommends stricter measures to curb youth access to e-cigarettes

The Great American Smokeout was Thursday, a day that encourages smokers to try to quit, even if it is just for the day. (Times-Standard file photo)
PUBLISHED: | UPDATED:

Thursday was the Great American Smokeout, a day that encourages smokers to try quitting, if only for a single day.

“A big part of our mission is healthy living,” said Kathryn Cox, community support coordinator for the Eureka branch of the American Cancer Society. “The Great American Smokeout is a yearly reminder and a good time to start the conversation about tobacco education, the effects of smoking and how to make the decision to quit.”

The annual event also happened to be the day the Food and Drug Administration recommended tightening rules on the sale of most flavored electronic cigarettes, a move aimed at curbing youth access to e-cigarettes.

“I will not allow a generation of children to become addicted to nicotine through e-cigarettes,” Scott Gottlieb, commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration, said in a statement.

Battery-powered e-cigarettes are more popular among teens than regular smokers and are considered safer. But many versions contain potentially addictive nicotine, and health officials believe they set kids who try them on a path toward regular cigarettes.

Humboldt County youth fall in line with national trends, and according to the 2017-18 Healthy Kids Survey, 33 percent of 11th-graders have tried e-cigarettes, a number that is even higher among students attending nontraditional high schools, where the number is 58 percent. The number of students who reported regular use is a bit lower, with 14 percent of 11th-graders and 29 percent of nontraditional students using e-cigarettes.

Sarah Nelson, a senior health education specialist with the Humboldt County Department of Health and Human Services said that vaping is “popular” among youth.

She said that Humboldt County across the board tends to have higher smoking rates than other areas of the state with about 16 percent of adults smoking locally compared with a state average around 12 percent. The same is true for youth who smoke, Nelson said.

“I think it’s common in our community, so I would expect it to be common in our schools,” said Jim Monge, Arcata High School’s assistant principal.

Jennifer Johnson, Eureka High’s principal said vaping devices are confiscated on occasion from students. She said it happened seven times last year, although she noted there are no logged confiscations yet this school year.

“It’s not something we see a lot,” she said. ” I think the kids know to keep that off campus. Might be in their backpack, might be in their possession.”

She said that teachers have been talked to about not letting students charge what might look like a USB device, one form e-cigarettes come in.

Both Johnson and Monge said anti-smoking is an integral part of the curriculum.

But the online access and marketing is one thing that bothers Johnson.

“The thing that worries me is all the marketing that is geared toward teens,” she said, noting it’s likely on social media. “They are trying to get kids hooked on nicotine in a different way than in the past. You don’t get the odor. That’s definitley different than in the past.”

Nelson said the anti-smoking education has been effective.

“We will offer a really great curriculum,” she said. “It’s about how drugs addict the brain. We try to teach them really fact based — we’re not trying to scare them. The facts themselves are really compelling. … We try to give them skills about how to say no. We also like to get information out to parents.”

The American Cancer Society also said events like the Great American Smokeout help, an event that started more than 40 years ago.

“Since 1965, we’ve seen a decrease in tobacco use of 42 percent,” Cox said.

Ruth Schneider can be reached at 707-441-0520. The Associated Press contributed to this report. 

blog comments powered by Disqus