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School talk on vaping dangers

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The use of the unregulated e-cigarettes — vaping — has a trend line among young people going straight up.

In a report issued by the U.S. Surgeon General two years ago, data showed a 900 percent increase in e-cigarette use by high school students from the previous four years. Research gathered by the National Youth Tobacco Survey among young people found that 1.7 million students said they’d indulged in an e-cigarette in the past 30 days of the date of the survey. For middle school kids, the number was 500,000.

Touted as a way to wean people off an addiction to nicotine, the jury is still out on that claim and studies agree that vaping is safer smoking conventional cigarettes. But there are still some truly bad ingredients in e-cigarettes that can do damage to the user’s health. In February, the journal Environmental Health Perspectives found that vapers can ingest particles of cadmium, nickel, arsenic, chromium and manganese.

Shelter Island School officials are seeking to spread the word that there’s nothing safe about the use of e-cigarettes. They’ve scheduled sessions for students and parents to learn about how the vaping devices work and what the effects can be from their use.

Stephanie Sloane, a senior drug abuse educator for the Suffolk County Department of Health Services, will be at the school Wednesday, May 23, first speaking with students at a special assembly at 1:30 p.m. and then meeting with parents at the school at 5:30 p.m.

Guidance counselor Martha Tuthill and Athletic Director Todd Gulluscio recommended that Ms. Sloane be invited to the Island after they heard her speak recently in Riverhead.

Ms. Sloane will talk about how a product hailed not so long ago as saving people from nicotine addiction that could result in lung cancer, heart problems and other life-threatening illnesses, has now been found to carry its own threats.

Dr. Jack Burkhalter, assistant director of Memorial Sloan Kettering’s Tobacco Treatment Program, was once an advocate of e-cigarette use as an alternative to smoking tobacco. But with further research, he now points out that e-cigarettes contain nicotine that’s addictive and can cause serious health problems.

Most e-cigarettes come from China and are unregulated, meaning there’s no knowing what other elements might be contained in them, Dr. Burkhalter has concluded.

Plus, WebMD has a report that vaping can contain formaldehyde and other cancer-causing elements. Other potential health threats include potential harm to the still-developing brains of children and threats to unborn babies.

Residents from surrounding areas are welcome to attend the 5:30 p.m. session at the school auditorium.

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