We are writing in response to recent coverage in the Napa Valley Register of youth vaping and Vaping Associated Pulmonary Injury (VAPI). As of September 9, 57 cases of VAPI have been reported to the California Department of Public Health. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) is aware of 450 possible cases nationwide. As many as five deaths in 33 states have been attributed to VAPI. The exact cause of Vaping Associated Pulmonary Disease is undetermined, but is likely due to additives in vaping liquid that can be dangerous when heated and inhaled. All patients have reported using e-cigarette products. The Napa County Health Officer Dr. Karen Relucio has issued a health alert to local providers regarding the situation and action steps for any suspected cases.
The tobacco industry is marketing to children with youth-focused marketing campaigns, child-friendly flavors, and high-tech devices. Local school administrators report that youth vaping is one of the most challenging issues on school campuses.
Locally, the use of e-cigarettes among young people has climbed each year since e-cigarettes entered the market in 2007. According to the 2018-2019 California Healthy Kids Survey, 19% of 11th graders in Napa County reported using e-cigarettes in the past 30 days. More than 80% of kids who have used tobacco products started with a flavored product. Misperceptions exist about nicotine levels and the associated risk. Children and teenagers face disproportionate risk from smoking, in part because nicotine is known to harm the developing brain.
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While educating our youth about the harms of vaping is an important component of stopping this epidemic, it is not enough. Schools and parents cannot combat big tobacco’s influence alone. Local jurisdictions must adopt and enforce policies that regulate the sale of tobacco products, including e-cigarettes. Cities in California and other states have taken action to restrict the sale of flavored tobacco products and/or electronic cigarettes in efforts to limit youth access to this dangerous and highly addictive product. The members of the Coalition for a Tobacco Free Napa, The UpValley Partnership for Youth, and the Catalyst Coalition urge our local policy makers to take action to protect our youth from big tobacco.
Bobbie Monnette on behalf of The Coalition for Tobacco Free Napa, UpValley Partnership for Youth, and Catalyst Coalition