Effort to Educate Alabama Youth on the Dangers of Tobacco & Electronic Cigarettes

Healthy Living Childrens Susan Walley MD_SDM_0953rs12

Susan Walley, M.D., who treats patients at Children’s of Alabama and is the author of the American Academy of Pediatrics Policy Statement on electronic cigarettes, shares details on a new grant to educate area youth on the dangers of tobacco and electronic cigarettes. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), one in every four Alabama high school students is a current tobacco user.

Children’s of Alabama and the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) Department of Pediatrics recently received a grant from the Alabama Department of Public Health (ADPH) with the goal of protecting Alabama youth from secondhand smoke exposure, tobacco use and initiation, with a particular focus on electronic cigarettes. The $80,000 grant will be utilized to collect data on youth tobacco use in the Birmingham metro area. Data will to be used to promote policies that protect youth from tobacco use and tobacco smoke exposure. The grant will also provide education to middle and high school students in the Birmingham City Schools and other area schools on the health risks of tobacco use and tobacco smoke exposure.

Another focus of the grant is education on the health harms of electronic cigarettes. Electronic cigarette use has skyrocketed among youth, and 2.4 million students in the United States reported using electronic cigarettes in 2014. The CDC reports that electronic cigarettes are now the most common tobacco product used by high school students. “As a pediatrician, I am very concerned about the potential for electronic cigarettes to addict a whole generation of youth to nicotine and tobacco,” said Susan Walley, M.D., an associate professor at UAB who treats patients at Children’s of Alabama. “Studies have shown that youth who use electronic cigarettes are more likely to go on to smoke conventional cigarettes. Electronic cigarettes also pose health risks to children from the secondhand aerosol, which is not merely ’harmless water vapor,’ and is a poisoning risk from the concentrated electronic cigarette nicotine solution.” There has been a dramatic increase in the number of calls made to Children’s Regional Poison Control Center about toxic exposures from electronic cigarettes – from just two calls in 2012 to 95 in 2015. The Center has already received 22 thus far in 2016. Learn more at www.childrensal.org.

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