To our fellow Montanans:
The Montana Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) represents more than 120 pediatricians throughout our state. Today, our members stand in strong support of Gov. Steve Bullock and his plan to help us fight the epidemic of vaping that has consumed our children and our schools.
Fifty-eight percent of high schoolers in Montana have used vaping devices (also known as electronic nicotine delivery systems, or ENDS), and approximately 30% use them regularly. We are starting to see vaping products used in our 9- and 10-year old patients. The rates of use have skyrocketed in the past few years, driven in large part by child-friendly flavorings such as candy and fruit, as well as deliberate marketing to adolescents and young adults. Vaping use now eclipses the use of traditional cigarettes at their most popular.
One of the most insidious untruths about vaping is that it is safe. It is certainly not. We know that nicotine has effects on the developing brain, is highly addictive, and is toxic; and many other compounds used in vaping devices are known carcinogens. Nicotine exposure during adolescence harms the part of the brain that controls attention, learning, mood and impulse control. We know that when people start using tobacco in any form as teenagers, they are likely to continue.
Our inaction thus far, along with the false premise of a less addictive product, has created nicotine addiction among a whole new generation of children, who will then go on to suffer from tobacco-related diseases. These illnesses already kill 1,600 Montanans each year.
Vaping poses health risks to both users and nonusers. The AAP has reviewed research on vaping that has found harmful toxicants and carcinogens in the vaping aerosols, which may affect others nearby in much the same way as secondhand smoke. Advertisers claim the secondhand aerosol is “harmless water vapor,” which is patently false.
The recent outbreak of severe lung disease has served to highlight how much we don’t yet know about the health effects of vaping. These products are not safe. We, your pediatricians, are ringing the alarm bells.
Tobacco companies have fueled this epidemic by telling outright lies to sell vaping devices to our kids. We are angry and saddened by how they have manipulated our patients, your children. We applaud Governor Bullock’s initiative to reduce the appeal of vaping to children, and feel it is an important start to the hard look we must take at the human cost of this growing threat.
This opinion is signed by Dr. Cathy White, president; Dr. John Cole, vice president; and Dr. Lauren Wilson, secretary-treasurer of the executive committee of the Montana chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics.