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Health Officials Form Workgroup to Address the Rise in Vaping Among Teens


To address an increase in the popularity and use of vaping devices in adolescents and young adults, Montgomery County health officials are recommending increased education and awareness regarding vaping to stem the increase.

Since October 2018, there have been several incidents of students losing consciousness after “smoking” unknown substances through vaping devices. In March three MCPS students were taken by ambulance to an emergency room after ingesting cannabinoids through a vaping device.

A student at Winston Churchill High School in Potomac was hospitalized Tuesday after ingesting “THC through a vaping device,” according to a letter emailed home from Principal Brandice Heckert. This is the third Churchill student in less than a month to be hospitalized for getting high on THC.

“Vaping can be extremely dangerous for adolescents and young adults due to ongoing brain development,” said Dr. Travis Gayles, County health officer. “Vaping devices can contain high levels of nicotine which can impair the development of critical areas of the brain needed for high cognitive and emotional functioning.”

Vaping refers to electronic devices, such as e-cigarettes, vape pens, vaporizers and Juul (a brand of e-cigarette), that work by heating a liquid such as nicotine, that produces an aerosol that is inhaled. The devices often mimic other devices, such as USB ports, and are small. Frequently, vaping devices are smokeless, and the produced aerosol is odorless, making it difficult to detect. National and local estimates suggest that vaping devices have replaced cigarettes as the most frequently used tobacco product among adolescents.

“We are concerned that other substances such as marijuana, synthetic cannabinoids and other liquids laced with more potent substances are being used,” said Gayles. “These can cause more acute symptoms such as loss of consciousness and respiratory depression.”

Health officials began working with a diverse group of stakeholders in February, including the Office of the County Executive, the County Council, Montgomery County Public Schools, Montgomery County Police, Department of Liquor Control and others to develop a strategic plan to decrease use. Steps under discussion include, but are not limited to enhanced surveillance, penalties for underage distribution and increasing the age eligibility for purchasing vaping and other electronic smoking devices.

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