GRAND ISLAND, Neb. — Starting Wednesday, vaping will be banned in public in Grand Island.

Teresa Anderson, director of the Central District Health Department, which covers Hall, Hamilton and Merrick Counties, said vaping is a public health danger and poses a risk to young people.

The Health Department is responsible for enforcing the city ordinance on smoke-free and vape-free workplaces and public places. Violations can carry penalties of up to $500.

Last month, the Grand Island City Council voted unanimously to ban vaping in public places. The law is similar to the public smoking ban.

Common vaping devices include e-cigarettes, vaping pens, and Juuls (shaped like USB flash drives). Devices consist of a mouthpiece, a battery, a cartridge of e-liquid or e-juice containing nicotine, and a heating component.

What concerns Anderson is that the 2018 Nebraska Risk and Protective Factor Student Survey reported that in Grand Island, 47% of 12th grade students, 31% of 10th grade students and 20% of eighth grade students said they had tried vaping one or more times.

“It has turned into an epidemic for kids who like the fruity flavors and who think vaping is safe,” she said.

Anderson said vaping may sound safe but “it isn’t.”

Anderson said the aerosol that users inhale and then exhale from e-cigarettes can potentially expose both themselves and bystanders to harmful substances including nicotine; heavy metals such as nickel, tin and lead; volatile organic compounds; cancer-causing chemicals; flavoring such as diacetyl, a chemical linked to severe lung disease; and ultrafine particles that can be inhaled deeply into the lungs.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is looking into 450 possible cases of severe respiratory illness, including three deaths, potentially linked to vaping. Symptoms of the disease include coughing, shortness of breath, chest pain, fatigue, nausea and vomiting.

The Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services said last week that it had confirmed one case of the disease and is investigating four others.

The department has advised health care providers that they should consider vaping-related illness in patients with respiratory symptoms and a history of vaping and that they should report suspected cases to their local health department or the state.

“Vaping has been wrongly touted as a safe smoking cessation aid,” Anderson said. “We don’t know that much yet about health effects for bystanders from the aerosols exhaled during vaping, but nicotine and other toxins from e-cigarettes are certainly a hazard. The use of dermal (skin patches and oral nicotine products like Nicorette) is safer for nicotine replacement and without risk for bystanders.”

She said that when substances from smoking or vaping are deposited on surfaces such as counters and tabletops, it is called thirdhand exposure. A recent study on substances remaining on surfaces where vaping occurred indicated that there is a risk for thirdhand exposure to nicotine from e-cigarettes. There is also a risk that small children may be drawn to attractive nicotine-filled cartridges and be exposed to unsafe levels of nicotine.

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