E-cigarette use up among San Luis Obispo County teens

Posted at 3:56 PM, Sep 17, 2018

A new study shows an alarming number of teens are using electronic cigarettes to smoke marijuana.

More than 2 million middle and high school students across the U.S. have admitted to using e-cigs or vape pens to get high. That’s about one in eleven students.

The growing epidemic is also hitting San Luis Obispo County. Officials say 20 to 25 percent of 11th-grade students in San Luis Obispo admit to using e-cigarette products.

"The younger generation has taken smoking and made it their own activity, their own product. It’s very different in terms of tobacco use in schools as we did 10, 20, 40 years ago," said Inger Appanaitis, San Luis Obispo County Tobacco Control Program Manager.

The battery-powered devices look sleek, high tech, and they’re easy to fit inside a pocket; all part of the reason they’ve become so popular among teens.

"The second reason is the variety of flavors. There are over 15,000 flavors on the market today," Appanaitis said.

E-cigarettes are generally considered less dangerous than regular cigarettes but come with their own risk.

"A Juul pod, which is about the size of your thumbnail, is the nicotine equivalent to a full packet of cigarettes," Appanaitis said.

"It’s helped a lot of people quit smoking, absolutely, but it’s also opened a can of worms everywhere else," said Adam Meinke, owner of Cloud 9 Smoke Shop.

Meinke says they carefully check and scan IDs, knowing their products are wanted by many teens.

Battery packs, sold in smoke shops and gas stations alike, can attach to any type of cartridge, including marijuana.

"The majority of what people buy is the little $10 to $20 setups and it’s universal, they can put whatever they want to on it," Meinke said.

The problem for parents is, it’s hard to tell whether the cartridge is nicotine-based e-juice, a cannabis product, or something else.

The FDA is now coming down on e-cigarette companies, giving them 60 days to come up with a plan to stop the underage use of their products.