Blueberry, strawberry and several other fruity flavors are not just the variety of candy one finds when they rip open the package.
These are all available flavors of e-liquids found on a vape store website.
Autumn Sky Burns, Sarpy County coordinator for Tobacco Education and Advocacy of the Midlands, has been working to control tobacco, and now electronic smoking, to reduce the negative effects both products could have on the community.
“My concern with vapes is they have delicious flavors which are too attractive to kids,” she said. “They have high amounts of nicotine which then addicts the kids and adults aren’t really in the know about it.”
TEAM has been in existence for 19 years and has seen the smoking landscape change several times over that period.
“Electronic smoking devices, some people call them vaping, some are Juuls, they have a bunch of cool names,” Burns said. “It’s just a modernized version of smoking.”
According to the Surgeon General’s advisory on e-cigarette use among youth, e-cigarette use among U.S. middle and high school students increased 900% from 2011 to 2015 before declining from 2015 to 2017.
However, current e-cigarette use increased 78% among high school students during the past year, from 11.7% in 2017 to 20.8% in 2018. In 2018, more than 3.6 million U.S. youth, including 1 in 5 high school students and 1 in 20 middle school students, currently use e-cigarettes.
“Our kids whose brains are not developed to maturity at all are very susceptible to that marketing and it’s everywhere your kids pay attention,” Burns said.
According to tobaccofreekids.org, the e-cigarette product smoking rate among high school students in Nebraska is 9.4%, compared to the national average of 27.5%.
Burns said this data from 2017 was when Juuls were not yet “mainstream” and the numbers from 2018 could be higher.
In 2017, the number of adults in Sarpy and Cass counties that used e-cigarettes was 4.8%.
Davey Boardman, regional manager of Generation V at 15th Street and Cornhusker Road, said the company has worked with Nebraska legislators to bump the age of being able to purchase electronic cigarettes from 18 to 19. This law will go into effect on Jan. 1.
He said he does not recommend people without a pre-existing relationship with nicotine try electronic nicotine products.
“Nicotine is an addictive substance,” Boardman said.
Enforcement and compliance checks of these stores have been made possible due to vape stores now being required to register for a tobacco license.
“That is one of the ways we will know where the stores exist,” Burns said. “For a while they would operate under the radar, they would pop up and there wouldn’t be anyone checking to see if they are selling to minors.”
Burns has several concerns regarding vapes.
She said individual communities can decide to stop the sale of flavors or increase the tobacco license price.
“We do need to get the info out to the public more, not even in a scary way,” Burns said.
“Just tell our parents tobacco is in our community and is still a problem. Vaping is just nicotine and cigarettes in a new outfit.”
Boardman said he and many of the employees at Generation V have used electronic smoking to quit cigarettes.
“Our goal is helping better adult smokers lives,” Boardman said. “Our sole purpose is to help people leave this terrible life-destroying habit behind.”