A town hall meeting was held Tuesday night at Warsaw City hall to educate the community on electronic cigarettes. Warsaw Mayor Joe Thallemer served as moderator and there were four panelists including Miranda Spitznagle, director of the tobacco prevention cessation commission of the Indiana Department of Health; Doug Hampton, Pill Box pharmacist; Araceli Grant, Bowen Center addiction therapist; and Jon Hutton, Tippecanoe Valley High School assistant principal.
Sponsors included Lutheran Health Network, Kosciusko Community Hospital, K21 Health Foundation, Kosciusko County Tobacco Free Coalition and Kosciusko County Health Department.
Spitznagle said e-cigarettes are intended to be inhaled, which is called vaping. They produce a mist or aerosol on each inhalation that resembles and tastes like the smoke produced by combustible tobacco products. These products are designed with a rechargeable battery-operated heating element. E-cigarettes come in fruit and candy flavors.
Doug Hampton, Pill Box pharmacist, discussed nicotine and said it is very addictive and is absorbed through inhalation or the skin, and the fastest way to get it in the blood stream is through inhalation.
Grant spoke about the effects of nicotine on the adolescent brain and said an adolescent’s brain is not fully developed and the pre frontal cortex is not developed and controls impulse control and the ability to make good decisions. Using nicotine makes teens more likely to use other substances, Grant said.
Hutton spoke about the challenges schools face with e-cigarettes and said schools are dealing with students using electronic cigarettes and vape pens and policies range from a one-day to a three- to five-day suspension for use.
“It is legal for kids to use it off-grounds because they are of age, but on-grounds it is not an acceptable tool or device to have,” Grant said.
There was a question and answer session where those who attended wrote questions on index cards and panel members gave responses.
An attendee asked what laws are being used to ban e-cigarettes in the public.
“We are a smoke-free campus and we consider this to be a smoking issue and we do not see a place now or in the future where we have e-cigarettes as part of our culture, population or environment,” Hutton said.
Spitznagle said some schools are making sure it is in their tobacco policy that e-cigarettes and vaping is added as being prohibited.
Thallemer said the goal of the meeting was not to ban e-cigarette for the community, but to educate the community on e-cigarettes that will help when policies are developed buy the legislator.
“The ideas is to understand what this delivery system is,” Thallemer said.
Another questions was what should be done to protect children from nicotine and e-cigarettes.
Hutton said it is about education.
He said the use of e-cigarettes is an adult choice, and there are procedures and policies that don’t allow e-cigarettes.
Grant said it is about parents educating themselves about e-cigarettes.
Spitznagle said it is important not to market e-cigarettes to those under 18.
Each panelist had the opportunity to provide closing remarks.
“In a school setting we feel like e-cigarettes and vaping fall into the same type or relationship as having regular cigarettes and we are going to continue to treat them as such and we feel it is not an appropriate thing on our school sites and is an adult choice, not a youth choice,” Hutton said.
Grant spoke from the mental health perspective.
“My focus is on the adolescents and teenagers and we need to protect them and get educated,” Grant said. “If it was cigarettes you wouldn’t offer your child a cigarette, and you wouldn’t offer them an e-cigarette.”
Hampton said he has heard the argument that e-cigarettes have assisted people in quitting smoking where nicotine is present.
“For people who have spoke for decades I’ve seen enough anecdotal information that says that certainly people have used this as a gateway out of smoking and I hope that is something that is invested in, shown, proven and legitimized so that more people can utilize that,” Hampton said.
Spitznagle said from a public health perspective e-cigarettes are still in an unregulated class of products.
“Sales and marketing restrictions for youth need to be included in our responses to addressing the issue,” Spitznagle said.
(Story By The Times Union)