MARYLAND HEIGHTS, MO – The U.S. Surgeon General issued a warning concerning kids who are using e-cigarettes. His efforts to put a stop to young people vaping nicotine are joined by a South County woman and her kids. The surgeon general warned vaping could lead to lifelong addiction, harm brain development and damage lungs.
Thomas Kelley and his brother, Jrue, attend Lindbergh schools, they’ve been amazed at how many fellow students are vaping on school grounds. Thomas Kelley is a senior at the high school, he said, “You can’t go into any bathroom at any single high school without seeing a vape in their hand.” Jrue Blassingame, an 8th grader added, “I think it can hurt them in the long term.”
U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Jerome Adams issued the warning after a study showed a sharp increase in the use of e-cigarettes by minors, that usage had more than doubled among 12th graders. Dr. Adams said, “I really want parents, teachers, providers, youth influencers to understand that this rise is occurring and that these products can look very inconspicuous.”
The boy’s mother heads a group called Step Up of St. Louis. Right now, young people cannot purchase e-cigarettes in St. Louis County but they can have them and use them.
Step Up of St. Louis wants to change that law to keep kids from vaping and inhaling the nicotine and other chemicals. Erin Kelley is the executive director of Step Up of St. Louis said, “I think we’re letting kids making really risky decisions.”
The surgeon general accused one company, Juul Labs, of marketing to young people. Juul responded saying the company shares a common goal with the feds preventing youth from initiating on nicotine.
For now, Erin Kelley’s family and friends will continue to work to make sure kids don’t use e-cigarettes. They want the county council to pass a new ordinance that would prevent vaping on or near school grounds. Kelley is hopeful, “I feel real confident.”
She expects the council to hold a public hearing on the issue next month. If kids are caught vaping they are not fined. Instead, they have to attend an 8-hour program which includes education about e-cigarettes and community service.