ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – One in four New Mexico teenagers used e-cigarettes in 2017, making youth vaping in the state higher than the national average, according to the New Mexico Department of Health. The national average in 2017 sat at nearly 21%, jumping from only 12% in 2015.
The number of middle and high school students using e-cigarettes nationwide rose from 2.1 million in 2017 to 3.6 million in 2018, according to the Centers for Disease Control.
Since May, three states have either launched investigations into or sued the e-cigarette giant Juul. The Connecticut attorney general announced a probe just this week. This comes after Juul representatives testified before Congress last week. Also at the hearing, two teen witnesses alleged that Juul came into their high school classroom to advertise and said their products, which contain nicotine, were safe.
This week, researchers from Yale and Duke University released a study that found the “vape liquid” inside Juuls could produce harmful chemical compounds when heated. This could inflame throats and even damage the lungs, according to the researchers.
Several families have sued Juul, accusing it of false claims of safety and causing nicotine addiction in their children, describing extreme addiction symptoms. Juul has defended the design of its products, saying they were engineered with adult smokers in mind. The company says its own clinical trials show that nicotine is absorbed more slowly than through traditional cigarettes, supposedly making the device useful for smokers trying to quit.
In New Mexico, some steps are being taken to address the surge in teen vaping.
The Santa Fe School Board unanimously voted for a resolution last month that calls for other school districts to join in the effort to implement restrictions on e-cigarette advertising, and lobby lawmakers to raise the age to buy tobacco products to 21.
State lawmakers have been deliberating raising the age to buy tobacco products to 21 and how to combat youth nicotine intake. A bill aimed towards keeping tobacco products away from kids by banning flavored tobacco products, including vape liquid, was proposed. However, that bill died in a committee earlier this year.
Last month, a 12.5% state tax on the liquid used in e-cigarettes went into effect as part of broader changes to the state tax code. House Bill 256 also added e-cigarettes to the state’s indoor smoking ban. As of June, vaping is banned anywhere where smoking is banned, including movie theaters, offices and restaurants.
Florida, Minnesota and South Dakota have also imposed indoor vaping bans similar to those in place for traditional tobacco.
Most e-cigarette manufacturers were established within the last five years, including Juul, so statistical data pertaining to the potentially addictive nature of e-cigarettes have yet to be described in the medical literature. Still, anecdotal evidence from leading addiction researchers and from families coping with teen e-cigarette addiction points to possible consequences of use among adolescents.