How do you know when we’re in trouble?

We’re in trouble when Big Tobacco is writing to the FDA, complaining that the government must do something about a vape product coming from China, Metatine or 6-methyl nicotine.

Let me back up a little bit. On April 14, 2022, the FDA was authorized to regulate tobacco products containing nicotine from any source, including synthetic nicotine. Some companies had begun producing vaping products with synthetic nicotine stating they didn’t have “tobacco” in them, so the FDA had no authority to regulate them. Congress corrected that. Around October 2023, vape stores in the U.S. started selling a product named Spree Bar. Spree Bar was sold claiming it was FDA premarket tobacco product application (PMTA) exempt. This product, and now others coming from China are marketed as containing “Metatine”, a trademarked name for 6-methyl nicotine, a synthetic nicotine analog. So again, manufacturers have, for the time being, found a way to work around the system until the FDA can decide whether 6-methyl nicotine can be regulated as a drug under the Federal Food Drug and Cosmetic Act (FDCA).

As of now, there is at least one vaping product on the U.S. market as well as several oral nicotine products that are using some derivative of 6-methyl nicotine. There are projections that this will be a billion-dollar market. Others are skeptical. Metatine is said to give users the same satisfaction a nicotine product does, and it comes with a lower price point, but the critical point is, for the time being, it isn’t hindered by the FDA’s authority over nicotine products.

Let me return to the letter Altia Group, the maker of Marlboro cigarettes, wrote to the FDA. In speaking of the warning vaping products that had 6-methyl nicotine in them, warning they posed a “new threat”.  “The introduction and growth of chemicals intended to imitate the effects of nicotine, if left unchecked, could present unknown risks to U.S. consumers and undermine FDA’s authority,” the letter said.

Who loses in this story? Our kids do.

2024-06-14T09:23:04-04:00June 14th, 2024|Bruce Barcelo|

Vaping Detectors In Schools

In recent years, vaping among adolescents has become a major concern for educators and parents alike. The rise of e-cigarette use among teenagers has prompted schools to take proactive measures to address this issue. One important measure many schools are looking to is the implementation of vape detectors within school premises.

To begin with, vape detectors serve as a deterrent to vaping on school grounds. By installing these devices in restrooms, locker rooms, and other common areas, schools send a clear message that vaping is not tolerated. The mere presence of vape detectors acts as a reminder to students of the rules and regulations surrounding substance use, discouraging them from engaging in such behavior.

Something I believe is even more important, vape detectors enable schools to identify and address vaping incidents promptly. With real-time monitoring capabilities, these devices alert school administrators to potential vaping activity, allowing them to intervene before the situation escalates. By detecting vaping early on, schools can provide support to students who may be struggling with nicotine addiction or peer pressure.

Additionally, vape detectors contribute to overall campus safety by reducing the risk of fire hazards associated with vaping. Many e-cigarette devices use lithium-ion batteries, which have been known to malfunction and cause fires. By detecting vaping activity, these detectors help mitigate the risk of accidental fires, safeguarding students, staff, and school property.

Installation of vape detectors underscores the school’s commitment to promoting a healthy lifestyle. By creating a vape-free environment, schools encourage students to make positive choices for their well-being and resist peer pressure to engage in harmful behaviors. In doing so, they foster a culture of responsibility and respect for oneself and others.

2024-04-18T14:35:32-04:00April 18th, 2024|Bruce Barcelo|

Is Smoking Weed Safer Than Smoking a Cigarette?

In recent surveys, the majority of Americans feel that inhaling marijuana smoke is safer than inhaling smoke from tobacco. Most Americans also believe that there is less harm to both adults and children who are exposed to secondhand marijuana smoke than cigarette smoke.

Does science back up these growingly popular concepts? Nope, we are learning more about the risks of marijuana use at an amazing rate. The fact is, when you burn tobacco or cannabis, it creates carcinogens which are toxic as well as particulate matter that is harmful to one’s health.  There is a growing concept that because cannabis is “natural”, inhaling or burning it is fine. Again, that is simply not true.

It is a ridiculous concept to debate if smoking cannabis is safer than smoking cigarettes. That is no more useful than asking, ‘Is eating a box of cookies healthier than eating a cake?’ NO added smoke is safe for our health.

There were surveys analyzed from 2017, 2020, and 2021. They showed that American’s positive perception of marijuana increased each year. The last year of the survey, 2021 shows that over 44% thought cannabis was somewhat or much safer than cigarette smoke. How about the harm of secondhand marijuana smoke?  Over 40% thought smoke from marijuana was safer than cigarette smoke.

Friends, we have so much work to do. As health professionals, educators, parents, or grandparents, we need to have conversations about facts like these. It’s not preaching about how using these products is going to ruin our teen’s lives. It’s about taking advantage of organic conversations about what they are seeing at school and in their community. What their friends may or may not be doing. And always, with an open mind, have conversations where there is an opportunity to drop some knowledge.

2024-03-26T11:09:54-04:00March 26th, 2024|Bruce Barcelo|

Wellness Vapes, Are They Safe?

Before Christmas, I had a mom tell me about this situation with her teenage daughter. Her daughter had asked her if she could have a personal diffuser.  Thinking it was something she would plug in and make her room smell like strawberries, Mom told her “Sure.” In a few days, the mom found her daughter in her room vaping what we now call “wellness vapes”.

Wellness vapes or “nutritional supplement diffusers” allow a user to inhale ingredients like vitamin B12, melatonin, caffeine, and many other options. These are usually slim, colorful cartridges, and names like Inhale Health and NutriAir. These products claim to do many things. There are options to help with sleep, give you energy, help with anxiety, and even fight ADHD. The fact of the matter is these products do not live up to their claim.  Here is the kicker, wellness vapes do not need FDA approval to be on the market. Why? They don’t contain nicotine, so the FDA has no control over these products.

The number and options for wellness vapes keep growing. They arrived on the market about four years ago. These products certainly hold something alluring and helpful to teens and undermine the efforts to encourage youth not to vape.

The FDA has warned that wellness vapes might well be dangerous. They may even trigger severe coughing and cause airways to tighten which could make breathing difficult. The simple truth is, it’s not ok to put anything unknown into our lungs.

Flavorings used in these products can cause lung damage and the propellants that send them into the lung will usually be propylene glycol and glycerin into the lungs and that is a medical concern.

Let’s be sure to include these products when talking to our youth about healthy choices. Help them understand that these products make many claims, but they are ineffective and at the worst, are likely to be harmful.

2024-02-20T15:24:13-05:00February 20th, 2024|Bruce Barcelo|

2024 A Year of New Heights

As we turn our eyes toward a new year and all it will bring. Let’s spend a few minutes looking at something relatively new, vaping cannabis. Unfortunately, we cannot go into depth explaining all the differences between CBD, THC, Deta-9, dabbing, blunts, chasing, and many other terms and important details to look at when discussing cannabis but we do need to understand several basic things.

How it works. Just like nicotine vaping devices, cannabis vapes work by heating a liquid or oil that becomes a vapor the user inhales. It is often difficult to tell a nicotine vape from a cannabis vape. Also, kids know how to hack them. I talked to a youth not long ago and he told me that he had a watermelon vape, used it till about half the vape was gone then opened it up and filled it with a THC liquid (he was very proud of himself). There are tons of YouTube showing how to do this.

We do need to know the difference between THC and CBD. THC is the psychoactive chemical compound in cannabis while CBD is non-psychoactive. There is also Delta-8 THC that can be sold as CBD. One thing all caregivers need to understand is this. Today’s cannabis is not the cannabis of the 60’s and 70’s. At the very least, 1 joint today is 10 times stronger than a joint in 1970. That means that for every 1 joint, you or your grandparent may have smoked, your child or grandchild would be smoking 10. Then you look at something like “dapping” where the cannabis is cooked down to a wax and is 80% stronger THC than a joint from the 1970s.

This brings us to the realities of the risks. I will highlight two of the vital organs at risk: the brain of the young person and their developing lungs. The brain of a young adult continues to grow into their early 20s and is busy developing critical skills related to problem-solving, impulse control, anticipating consequences, and more. Cannabis can get in the way of this critical development.

Several thousand lung injuries and deaths have been associated with an illness linked to vaping devices containing THC. Even though the CDC has stopped collecting this data, cases are still being recorded. Some symptoms to watch for are shortness of breath, fatigue, weight loss, and gastrointestinal problems.

In months to come, we will look at how we can address this issue with our youth.

2024-01-03T16:54:13-05:00January 3rd, 2024|Bruce Barcelo|

A Call To Support

This time of the year can certainly mean the weather is changing outside. There are songs like, “Baby It’s Cold Outside” or maybe “Colder Weather” by Zac Brown that remind us of cold weather.  But actually, I’m thinking of the efforts Big Tobacco is going through to keep the “cooling agent” in cigarettes and vapes on the market: MENTHOL.

See, the FDA, in October of this year, sent the White House final regulations to eliminate menthol nicotine products like e-cigarettes, cigarettes, and cigars. But Big Tobacco won’t give these products up without a fight. Menthol cigarettes reap more than a third of all annual cigarette sales from menthols and US sales of “ice” e-cigarettes have been increasing at an alarming rate, with US sales growing by more than 10 times from 2017-2021. What is even more alarming, in 2023, almost 58% of US kids who vape, use ice e-cigarettes.

Big Tobacco put up a major fight as California passed its flavor ban that included menthol. Now, they have multiple front groups like “Alliance for Fair and Equitable Policy” to post advertisements opposing the federal ban on menthol and placing them on popular podcasts and local targeted radio and social. These ads prompt their target audience to call the White House in protest of the FDA proposal.

So now, it’s time for all of us to use our voices. I encourage you to call the White House’s comment line and leave a message for President Biden. Support the FDA’s recommendations on eliminating the sale of menthol products. The phone number is: 202-456-1111.

May your days be merry and bright.

2023-12-22T09:45:21-05:00December 22nd, 2023|Bruce Barcelo|

You Know What’s Really Scary?

With Halloween around the corner, there are more than goblins and ghosts to be concerned with. In preparation for a local television interview last week, I visited a vape shop known to sell to youth.  I was able to purchase three devices that researchers point out are very scary. The first was a “Ghost” vape that had THC. Researchers are telling us that youth are often using a THC vape product without knowing it has THC. That my friends is very scary!  I was able to purchase a “VAPIN DONUTS” with the flavor, Juicy Fruit Bubblegum. We had our twin granddaughters for the weekend, and I showed them these devices. When they saw this one, they said, “That smells so good!”  They are sixth graders, tell me that isn’t scary! The last one is from “SNOOPYSMOKE”.  The flavor is “Black Ice” which means it has mint or menthol. Research tells us that many disposable products add mint or menthol and use the code words ice, cool, freeze, and other names describing mint and menthol. But that isn’t even the most concerning issue of the Snoopsmoke. It has 15,000 puffs. This is the highest puff count I have found available to date. This is the equivalent of 7 ½ packs of cigarettes or 150 cigarettes. This is very scary because a youth doesn’t know when to stop using it.  

The FDA MUST take action and stop this nightmare.  

2023-10-13T14:18:57-04:00October 13th, 2023|Bruce Barcelo|

School’s Out for Summer

Schools have pretty much wrapped up this school year. Seniors have graduated and elementary students have had their field day. For some youth, summer is a great time to have a part-time job, vacation with their family, or simply enjoy the warm summer days.  Some of our kids will find it a challenge to feed their nicotine addiction away from the school hallways and bathrooms. So, what are we as parents and caregivers supposed to do?  Here are several tips that your child might be vaping.

Have they started becoming more secretive and closing their door more often? This is certainly normal adolescent behavior so each parent or caregiver will have to establish what is normal for their child.   Maybe they are making a lot of excuses to use the restroom or go outdoors. Does their room have a sweet smell and are they using candles or room fresheners to disguise a smell? How about physically, is there a change in their sleeping, or have they developed a raspy cough or have lung infections? Maybe you will see a change in eating habits or having nausea.  The last one, are they more irritable, have more mood swings, or are they anxious.  This could be a sign that they are vaping.

I cannot leave us at just identifying if our child is vaping, I must share several next steps if you believe they may be vaping. First, talk to them. Come to this conversation with concern, not judgment. Listen more than you talk.  Help them develop a plan as to how they can quit. You might want to include their physician in this conversation.  For additional resources, check out Parents Against Vaping E-cigarettes.   https://www.parentsagainstvaping.org/

2023-06-05T08:42:04-04:00June 5th, 2023|Bruce Barcelo|

World Tobacco Day is May 31st!

World No Tobacco Day is this month. On May 31st, schools, healthcare professionals, and public health champions from around the world will join together to raise awareness about the devastating impact tobacco products have on our health and our environment. Typically, youth are not moved by numbers, but these may perk their ears up just a bit. Tobacco kills up to half of its users and more specifically, more than 8 million people each year. Over 7 million of those deaths are the result of using a tobacco product while 1.2 million are the result of non-smokers being exposed to second-hand smoke.

What does interest them are environmental concerns. Here is my “Bruce’s Best” for May. Talk about the environmental impact of tobacco.

  • Scarce available land and water are being used for tobacco cultivation with thousands of hectares of timber being destroyed for tobacco production.
  • 766,571 metric tons of cigarette butts make their way into the environment every year.
  • If you put cigarette litter waste “butt to butt”, it would wrap around the earth 3 times!
  • Vapes create major plastics environmental waste, tech waste, and introduction of toxic chemicals into the environment.

Help our youth find their voice and become advocates for issues that will change the world.

2023-05-02T15:04:25-04:00May 2nd, 2023|Bruce Barcelo|

Tobacco Litter: Why It Matters

When you have the opportunity to talk with youth about using nicotine products, please don’t waste your time overwhelming them with facts about how it will harm their health and how addictive they are. Is that what I’m most concerned about? Absolutely! But it’s not what they are concerned with, and you will lose them in a heartbeat. So, what will they listen to? They will listen to the fact that Big Tobacco is concerned with one thing, profit. They have always considered youth as replacements for most customers that will become sick and die prematurely from using their products. When we show them the predatory advertising and marketing of the tobacco and vaping industry, youth don’t like being played.

Youth also cares about environmental issues. Tobacco and vaping are the largest forms of single-use plastic global environmental threats. Every minute, people dispose of 8.5 million cigarette butts. That is enough to fill an Olympic-sized swimming pool in under an hour. Cigarette butts leach nicotine and other chemicals that harm or kill aquatic life. Micro-plastics have been found in water, in the air, and even in human organs and breast milk.

E-cigarette waste is potentially a more serious environmental threat than cigarette butts since e-cigarettes introduce plastic, nicotine salts, heavy metals, lead, mercury, and flammable lithium-ion batteries into waterways, soil, and to wildlife. Unlike cigarette butts, e-cigarette waste won’t biodegrade even under severe conditions. E-cigarettes left on the street eventually break down into micro-plastics and chemicals that flow into the storm drains to pollute our waterways and wildlife. There are many good resources for information on the environmental impact of tobacco products, check out Parents Against Vaping E-cigarettes, “Vapes are Trash”: https://www.parentsagainstvaping.org/vapesaretrash

Standing up against big industries that use slave labor, pollute our planet, and use predatory advertising to addict individuals is cool. Giving your money to Big Tobacco, which is interested in only making profits and harm our environment is…(I ask them to tell me how smart it is.)

2023-04-04T10:43:10-04:00April 4th, 2023|Bruce Barcelo|
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