As I’ve made presentations to school-age youth in the past few years, I’ve learned that kids think vaping isn’t bad for them. Nothing could be further from the truth. Nicotine is highly addictive. And claims by companies that their product is “low nicotine” or “just water vapor” are false.

All e-cigarettes contain dangerous chemicals as well as nicotine. The nicotine in vape and e-cigarette products damages the part of the brain that supports decision making and cognitive skills. In teens, this part of the brain is not yet fully developed, so these products lead to addiction and brain damage.

If that isn’t bad enough, in the midst of the pandemic we’re learning that young people who use vape and e-cigarette products and who smoke cigarettes are far more vulnerable to COVID-19. That’s according to a new study led by researchers at the Stanford University School of Medicine that was published online in the Journal of Adolescent Health. The study found that COVID-19 diagnosis was five times more likely among e-cigarette users and seven times more likely among dual users (those who use e-cigarettes and smoke cigarettes).

Vape and e-cigarette products pose a serious threat to young people, and the fact that young people are misinformed only heightens that threat.

That’s why I’m spearheading an anti-vaping campaign in collaboration with Healthy Communities of the Capital Area to coincide with youth returning to school (physically or virtually).

I want young people and their parents to know the facts about vape and e-cigarette products, such as:


• When e-cigarette users inhale, they’re not taking harmless water vapor into their lungs. The aerosol that users inhale contains highly addictive nicotine, as well as toxic chemicals that damage the lungs.

• There’s growing evidence that use of vape and e-cigarette products leads to significant health risks, including lung damage and greater vulnerability to COVID-19.

To help raise awareness of these facts, the campaign includes anti-vaping social media posts targeted to teens. These posts serve as a counter-measure to the aggressive and often misleading marketing to young people conducted by e-cigarette companies. For example, e-cigarette marketers promote their products as a way to quit smoking. In reality, both smoking cigarettes and vaping cause lung damage.

I also want to limit teen access to vape and e-cigarette products. Even though the federal age to buy tobacco products is 21, minors are still getting their hands on vapes and e-cigarettes.

In Maine, “An Act to Prohibit the Furnishing of Tobacco Products to Minors” went into effect last fall. The law makes furnishing, giving, selling or delivering a tobacco product — including vapes and e-cigarettes — for or to a minor a class D crime with a minimum fine of $500 and up to $2,000. This includes knowingly allowing minors under one’s supervision to possess and/or use tobacco products.

The campaign includes distributing materials about the tobacco law to the hundreds of tobacco retailers in Kennebec and Somerset counties. Somerset Public Health is also involved and supporting the campaign.

Together we can educate minors and young adults about the dangers of vaping and caution all adults to not facilitate the use of these products by minors. The combination of COVID-19 and vaping is deadly. Now is the time, more than ever, to talk to your teen or young adult about the dangers of vaping.

Maeghan Maloney, of Augusta, is district attorney for Kennebec and Somerset counties.

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