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|

March is Women’s History Month: how has tobacco impacted women’s health?

March is Women’s History Month. We celebrate the countless women who have worked tirelessly and bravely for equality, and justice in our Nation. The theme for 2023 is “Celebrating Women Who Tell Our Stories”,  which honors women in our past and present who have served as storytellers, family matriarchs, and community leaders and those who pass on history.

As we honor all women this month, it is also important to also consider how tobacco has impacted their health. Smoking is responsible for 80% of lung cancer deaths among women each year, and lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer death among women. Did you know that female smokers are nearly 22 times more likely to die from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), which includes emphysema and chronic bronchitis, compared to women who never have smoked?

It is also important to remember that women and young girls have often been the target of Big Tobacco, with ads targeting them with themes associating various nicotine products with social desirability, independence, weight control, and having fun.

President Carter said in his proclamation declaring March 2-8 the first Women’s History Week, “Too often, the women were unsung, and sometimes their contributions went unnoticed”.  “But the achievements, leadership, courage, strength, and love of the women who built America were as vital as that of the men whose names we know so well.” So during Women’s History Month, let us celebrate the women in our lives that not only tell our stories. Let us celebrate the women of the Breathing Association past, present and future who will share the important story of this historic and vital organization.

2023-03-09T08:28:41-05:00March 9th, 2023|Bruce Barcelo|

How Does Ohio Measure Up?

We need to do annual check-ups with our family physicians, don’t we? They can tell us so many things. In the last several weeks, there have been two great annual tobacco “check-ups” that can certainly tell us a lot about the state of Ohio. Let’s take a look. The first is the “Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids: Broken Promises To Our Children”. This report highlights that Ohio ranks 31st in its spending on tobacco prevention and cessation.  This is only a little over 11% of what the CDC recommended spending amount is. The state of Ohio brings in $1.2 billion in tobacco revenue and the tobacco industry spends almost $430 million to market its product in Ohio.   So, what is the real cost to our state? Residents’ state and federal tax burden from smoking-caused expenditures is $1,186 per household. Tobacco killed 20,200 Ohio citizens last year. This isn’t a very good check-up.

Let’s now turn to the American Lung Association “State of Tobacco Control Grade Card”. When I was a child, my teacher handed my grade card to me, and I then handed it to my parents. Here are Ohio’s grades: Tobacco Prevention and Cessation Funding: F, Smokefree Air: A, Tobacco Taxes: F, Access to Cessation Services: C, Flavored Tobacco Products: F. That’s 3F’s, 1C, 1A. They gave Ohio an overall grade of F. The ALA’s Ohio annual healthcare cost due to smoking is $5,647,310,236. And the last number I will share is the high school tobacco use rate. It is 36.70%. That is staggering.

What do we do with a diagnosis like this? Our primary care physician would certainly voice their concern about the state of our condition.  We must use our voice and share our concern about the condition of the health of Ohio. We need to let our local elected officials know our concerns and most importantly, let our state and federal elected officials know these outcomes are not acceptable. We have the right and responsibility to hold them accountable.  Ohio’s health will not improve if we simply hope for better outcomes.

2023-03-28T15:18:18-04:00February 6th, 2023|Bruce Barcelo, Uncategorized|

2023 Brimming With Optimism!

An Article by Bruce Barcelo

Happy New Year!  There is nothing I would rather do than submit an article this month to 2023 brimming with optimism regarding youth vaping.  National survey numbers told us that youth vaping went down in 2021 but when youth returned to classrooms in the fall of 2021 the conversations, I was having with school administrators from around the country certainly didn’t reflect that. Florida data recently released shows that vaping/tobacco incidents almost doubled in this past school year.

If we look at the sales numbers of e-cigarettes, we might better understand the youth epidemic. Zero percent of disposable e-cigarettes had the highest level of nicotine in 2017, today 90% have the highest level of nicotine.  Nearly half of the high school students who vape do so daily. A number that doesn’t make any sense, the prices for vaping products with nicotine strengths that had a low nicotine level (1-2%), increased in prices ($10.40-$29.20). Products with high nicotine levels (4-5%) dropped ($12.80-$10.10). Why this is so concerning is that youth are price sensitive. The market moved to higher nicotine-level products with a cheaper cost for one reason.

So where do we turn for our New Year’s inspiration? Let us turn to the remarkable citizens of Ohio, who when it looked like Big Tobacco had used all its massive weight to sway politicians to potentially dismantle not only the Columbus flavor ban, but tobacco prevention efforts made around the state, it was you who called and wrote the governor to ask him to veto this effort. Today, Ohio is stronger because we stood together and weathered this storm. It is now a new year and together, we will battle because our youth need our support.

2023-03-28T15:31:19-04:00January 23rd, 2023|Bruce Barcelo, Uncategorized|
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