Health risks and addiction surrounding teens and e-cigarette use were the subject of continued discussion by the Columbia Board of Health on Thursday evening.

Concerns about the effects of nicotine on brain cognition and nicotine potentially leading to other, harder drug use in teens dominated the board’s discussion, which has been ongoing throughout the past few months.

“The biggest concern in nicotine use in youth is the increased addictive properties,” board member Leona Rubin said.

Rubin also brought up the concern that flavorants are making e-cigarettes more appealing to teens. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has moved to ban sales of more popular flavors in recent months.

“The flavorants sold in these devices are really problematic,” she said.

The board also discussed the prominence of e-cigarettes in junior and high schools. Boone County Commissioner Janet Thompson told a story of an experience she had in Centralia, where students were hesitant to admit their vaping habits.

“When the question was asked ‘How many of you all vape?’, they all looked at the superintendent,” Thompson said. “As time passed, they were more comfortable to put their hands up.”

E-cigarette use among teens has increased significantly over the last year. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, the number of middle school and high school students using e-cigarettes increased from 3.6 million in 2018 to 5.4 million in 2019.

How kids are receiving messages about vaping products was also discussed at the meeting. Robin Dianics, Community Outreach and Engagement coordinator with the University Hospital, said that some kids are becoming concerned for themselves.

“When they are seeing the negative effects in the media, they’re coming to us and saying ‘I need help, you need to get me out of this,’” Dianics said.

Spreading the word through mandatory classes is one of the many ways the board suggested schools assist their students.

“Though it’s not the only thing, we need to spread the word through education,” board member Mahree Skala said.

Supervising editor is Galen Bacharier.

  • Public Health and Safety reporter, fall 2019. Studying magazine journalism. Reach me at pggrm5@mail.missouri.edu, or in the newsroom at 882-5700.

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