The Shawnee County Health Department is raising the alarm about what’s being called a teen vaping “epidemic.“
At a presentation during the county commission meeting Monday morning, Shawnee County Health Department Director Linda Ochs shared what she refers to as a frightening statistic, and similar to nationwide trends.
“Here in Shawnee County – according to the Communities that Care survey results – we saw a 91 percent increase in current e-cigarette usage by 6th to 12th graders from 2017 to 2018,“ Ochs said. “In just a year. The surgeon general is calling this an epidemic.“
The increase comes as especially concerning because Ochs said many teens believe vaping is harmless. She and the rest of the Health Department are stepping up efforts to educate teens at area schools about the issues smoking can cause.
“They could contain carcinogens and all the flavors contain nicotine,“ Ochs said.
Shawnee County and the City of Topeka passed Tobacco 21, an ordinance that raises the minimum age to purchase tobacco products to 21, in January 2018. However, Ochs said a court-ordered stay issued has stopped it from being enforced in the capital city.
“That ruling is being appealed,“ Ochs said. “The [Kansas] Supreme Court hearing is April 1.“