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State health officer says e-cigarettes use is becoming a dangerous epidemic among minors


Dr. Currier warns of epidemic with minors’ use of e-cigarettes.
Jimmie E. Gates

Holding up an e-cigarette, State Health Officer Dr. Mary Currier warned Friday of the danger of the device, calling it a drug delivery system of nicotine and other chemicals.

E-cigarettes are battery-operated devices used to inhale an aerosol that can contain nicotine, flavoring and other chemicals, according to the National Institute of Drug Abuse.

“Nicotine is very addictive,” Currier said, warning of the danger of e-cigarettes use among teens.

About 10 percent of teens are using e-cigarettes, which can come in deceptive flavors such as cool-mint and cotton candy, according to information reported Friday at a news conference at the attorney general’s office..

Juul is the most popular brand of e-cigarettes.

JUUL, the largest maker of e-cigarettes products, said on the company’s website it supports 21 plus legislation at local, state and federal level.

“We want to keep JUUL out of the hands of young people, and we believe raising the minimum purchase age is a step in the right direction. We are committed to combating underage use….”

No one wants their kids addictied, but Currier said that is what is happening with kids being able to buy e-cigarettes.

Currier joined with Attorney General Jim Hood, the Partnership for a Healthy Mississippi, Rankin County Youth Court Judge Tom Broome and others at the news conference to warn against e-cigarette use by minors.

Hood said he will propose legislation to make e-cigarettes fall under tobacco laws, which prohibit sale to minors.

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“We will have to crack down,” Hood said. “You have to treat them the same as you do tobacco.”

Hood said e-cigarettes are a gateway for young people to tobacco or other drug products. He said some e-cigarettes sold at local stores have been found to contain fentanyl, an addictive pain killer; Spice, a synthetic narcotic; and formaldehyde, a dangerous chemical.

One pod equals 200 puffs or roughly one pack of regular cigarettes. Hood said youths are using e-cigarettes at school and in their rooms. They don’t leave the odor of regular cigarette smoke. And some e-cigarettes devices can resemble a USB flash drive.

Recently, a sting found 75 mom and pop stores across-the-state selling e-cigarettes to minors and nine of the stores were mixing their own products to go into the e-cigarettes, Hood said.

In addition to preventing the sale of e-cigarettes to minors, Hood said he will propose to the Legislature that e-cigarettes have the additional tax placed on them that other tobacco products have. He also wants to prevent mixing the chemicals in e-cigarettes at local retailers unless done by a licensed individual, And no wholesaler can sell e-cigarettes to retailers unless they have a license.

The AG’s office is also working on a brochure for parents explaining the danger of e-cigarettes for teens.Letters will be sent to school superintendents about e-cigarettes use among minors, also.

Hood, Currier and others said e-cigarettes were initially seen as helping maybe a 40 year-old wean off traditional cigarettes, not for teens with undeveloped brains.

Sandra Shelson, executive director of Partnership for a Healthy Mississippi, said e-cigarettes are being marketed to teens and that manufactures are sponsoring music festivals and other events that attract minors.

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“Children have access to this highly addictive product,” Shelson said.

Broome said e-cigarettes are causing unpredictable results for teens including causing some to pass out and hit their heads.

“I’m urging the public and the Legislature to prevent a spread of this epidemic,” Broome said.

Currier, who is retiring in November, said “we will be dealing with it in the future, if we don’t deal with it now.”

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