Common advertisements for vaping products showcase whimsical flavors, like gummy bear and fruit medley, along with designs aimed to catch the eyes of young people, including high school students and younger.
One specific vape ad showed a to-do list that included “study,” “band practice” and “vape time.”
Cristina Gibson, chronic disease prevention director for the Coastal Health District, showed this ad to the students at Glynn Middle School in three separate assemblies Monday. The assemblies aimed to educate the students, as well as parents, guardians and other community members invited to attend, about the dangers of vaping.
Gibson also discussed underage drinking and illicit drug use, but the main focus of the assembly was on the use of vapes, a rising trend among young people that has alarmed parents and school staff across the country and in Glynn County.
“They’re intentionally marketing to you because studies are showing that you are their target audience,” Gibson said. “You are their target market. Once they get you, they will have a consumer or a client for life.”
E-cigarettes have not been proven to prevent cigarette smoking, Gibson said. It’s possible, she said, that vaping can actually lead to the use of cigarettes or other tobacco products.
“If I can help all of you avoid tobacco, then our job is done,” Gibson said.
The most popular rechargeable cigarette on the market right now is the JUUL brand.
The juice, held in pods attached to the vapes, which resemble USB flash drives, contains nicotine. Sometimes the pods contain the same amount of nicotine as an entire pack of cigarettes, Gibson said.
“So what is happening is these companies are raising a new generation of people that may get addicted to the nicotine and this product,” Gibson said.
The juice comes in a variety of flavors, including mint, mango and creme, which are attractive to youth.
And most youth — 63 percent, according to a study — do not realize the vape pods contain nicotine. Often, too, Gibson said, students are putting other drugs into the pods.
Yet, these products are being marketed as safe alternatives to cigarettes, she said.
“The tobacco company is very smart,” Gibson said. “They have excellent marketing strategy, and they’re trying to get a whole new generation of users that will be lifelong users. So don’t be part of that.”
She reminded the students that their young brains are still developing, and the use of these products can affect that development.
“The bottom line for all of these habits – drinking, vaping and the drugs — is if you have never used, don’t start,” Gibson said. “If you are using, or have used them, stop or get the help that you need to stop.”