FORT WAYNE, Ind. (FOX 55) - The most recent National Youth Tobacco Survey from the Center for Disease Control reveals that tobacco use among high schoolers has increased to over 27% in 20518 with over 7% of middle schoolers using tobacco products, which include e-cigarettes.
Now health officials are making sure area teens make healthier choices. Local public health officials met today at McMillan Health Center to discuss how to help fight the battle.
Dr. Tony GiaQuinta, President of the Indiana American Academy of Pediatrics, said "we’re seeing a whole new challenge, a new epidemic."
Epidemic is how the CDC and other health officials around the country have described the increase in use of nicotine-based products among teens.
The CDC shows use of e-cigarettes has increased 78% from last year among high schoolers and 48% among middle school students.
The use of nicotine has been scientifically proven to be harmful, especially to younger people.
Dr. GiaQuinta explained "the brain does not stop developing until it’s about 25 years old and the plasticity of the brain, the ability of the brain to mold, continues to evolve over those first 25 years. Nicotine is harmful for that development."
This means that if you use nicotine while younger, your attention span will decrease as will your ability to make good decisions as you get older.
Mcmillan Health CEO Holli Seabury says public health officials have done well to lower traditional tobacco use among teens to historic lows, but the game has changed with introduction of e-cigarettes.
"Cigarette companies aren’t allowed to advertise cigarettes anymore, but along come the e-cigarettes and they don’t have those restrictions and they advertise like crazy and a lot of it is aimed towards other young people," said Seabury.
And you wouldn’t be to blame if you didn’t recognize some of the nicotine-based products because they look like normal food and drinks.
Nancy Cripe of Tobacco Free Allen County says parents need to pay very close attention to what their child has because the devices are now concealable and smell free, and cripe believes e-cigarettes should be restricted even further for children’s safety.
Cripe said "we need to do away with their access to these products. Make it much more difficult for them to walk into a gas station and purchase them or get a friend to walk into a gas station to purchase them. They should be much less widely available and i think that we need to do away with all the flavors."
But one of the most important tools is the message put out by parents at home according to Seabury.
She said, "parents have a lot of control over this and by opening the conversation and being a source of information and support for your child, we can turn this epidemic around."