Carl Varney

Cary Varney was the guest speaker at the Knox County UNITE meeting on Tuesday, September 30.

The dangers of vaping were a hot topic of discussion at Tuesday’s Knox County UNITE Coalition meeting.

“When asked what kids were vaping, most went back and forth between nicotine and just flavoring,” said Carl Varney, UNITE Coalition Coordinator, and guest speaker for the October 1 meeting. “The main issue with this is that there are hardly any special e-liquids that do not contain nicotine.” He added, “They [JUUL Labs] are not required to list that information. Kid’s may think it’s just flavor but there is in fact highly addictive nicotine in almost all of these products.” 

Varney spoke about the ‘e-cigarette epidemic’ and the effects of e-cigarette exposure in middle school and high school students. 

According to Varney, the NIDA (National Institute on Drug Abuse) revealed results from a nationwide survey called ‘Monitoring the Future’ that 17.6% of 8th graders, 32.3% of 10th Graders and over 37% of 12th graders have used an e-cigarette in the past year. The 12th grade numbers are up almost 50% from 2017 when it was 25%. 

“We have learned from regional surveys that those numbers are much higher here in our area,” Varney emphasized. “Recent studies in Kentucky reported multiple schools across the state - from middle school to high school - are reporting 75% of students using e-cigarettes.”

As owner of Alley Cat Vapors in Barbourville, Joyce Graham, disagreed with a few of Varney’s key points in his vaping presentation. Graham explained that her business has suffered because of the negative coverage on the topic of vaping recently. Graham claims the products she sells are not harmful to her costumers because vaping provided a gateway for her customers to stop smoking tobacco cigarettes completely (including in her own smoking journey.)

“I wanted to start this business to help people quit smoking,” Graham said. “There’s got to be a better way to help people stop using tobacco cigarettes.”

Are e-cigarettes a better alternative to smoking regular cigarettes? Varney does not think so. Adolescents who were first time e-cigarette users were four times more likely to report cigarette smoking, in just one year. “It is a major concern among health professionals that using e-cigarettes/vape pens at a young age can lead to use of traditional cigarettes down the road.”

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