TRI-CITIES, Wash. — The U.S. Surgeon General released some shocking new numbers about vaping. They say currently one-in-five high school students use e-cigarettes.
Our police and School Resource Officers don't think those numbers accurately reflect our area. SROs in Kennewick and Pasco say they confiscate one to three vape pens a month. The owner of The Fix Vapor Café Travis Scheibe is pointing a finger at convenience stores, gas stations and websites for selling to underage kids.
The FDA is now calling e-cigarette use an epidemic among teens.
“Until the brain finishes developing at the age of about 25 it's very susceptible to addiction,” said Vanessa McCollum with Benton Franklin Health District. “The nicotine is very addictive and can actually change the way the brain develops.”
Scheibe says the lack of FDA regulation is putting the most harmful devices in the hands of teens. He says the Juul gives kids the rush of a nicotine high that's too intense for even him, an avid vaper, to handle.
He says the Juul is about nine times stronger than the device he and most his adult customers use.
Scheibe says the flavor and bright packaging aren't what kids are getting addicted to. It's the nicotine. But, the flavor is all the FDA has regulated.
“What the FDA is not doing is having an open and honest dialogue by any stretch of the imagination,” Scheibe said.
Scheibe says he understands the dangers of vaping for teens and has created a space he doesn't want them to be a part of.
“We've been very strict about how old you can be to buy this stuff. We card all the time,” he said.
Health officials are worried kids don't understand the risks of vaping when they start. McCollum says parents need to have an open conversation about vaping with their children as young as elementary school.
“We hear from kids that they don't know that it's bad or they didn’t know it was bad for them when it started,” McCollum said.
Both sides say there needs to be more regulations on what's getting in the hands of kids and causing so much controversy.
Schiebe says he's worried that the lack of regulation on vaping products is not only harming kids, but will eventually force the vaping products out of the hands of people that need it the most. People like himself that used vaping to ween off smoking or chewing tobacco.