As concerning new stats surface, local mom crusades to end teen vaping with documentary

HULL, Mass. -- You never know when inspiration will strike. Take the case of Lori Tobin. About three years ago, the Hull mom was out running errands when she saw a teenager she remembered coaching years before, vaping.

“I just drove by and thought, that is so wrong. That is so wrong that young man is doing that,” she said. “And it just shook me. So I had to do something. I was compelled to do something.”

That something she did was something she’d never done before. Tobin made a documentary about the dangers of vaping. It’s called ‘Taking A Toke.’ The film, which she is promoting to school systems, features medical doctors, parents and lawmakers all testifying to the dangers of teen vaping. The film has already been seen in some local schools, and more are set to screen it in October and November.

“There’s one Mom in my film that discusses how the kids are getting punished for this addiction,” Tobin said. “It’s really not their fault. They should never have been able to get this product.”

In Massachusetts, technically, teens really shouldn’t be able to get vaping products. Sales of vapes are restricted to those 21 and older. And in June 2020, a state ban went into effect on the sale of flavored vapes.

But that doesn’t mean teens aren’t getting them. The National Youth Tobacco Survey from 2022 found more than 2.5 million high school and middle school students currently using e-cigarettes -- with nearly 85 percent reporting use of flavored ones. Thursday the CDC released statistics from 2022 as well, showing teen vaping is not going away.

“Across much of the nation, the flavored e-cigarettes that fueled the epidemic originally, are still widely available,” said Matthew Myers, President of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids. “Many of them contain quantities of nicotine that are far higher than we see in cigarettes. In many cases what we’re seeing is kids who are becoming addicted more rapidly and more intensely than we see even with cigarettes.”

And, Myers said, it seems e-cigarettes are a gateway to not just the real thing -- but, potentially, life-long issues with substance abuse.

“Study after study has shown that a non-cigarette user who starts with e-cigarettes is three to four times more likely to become a cigarette user,” he said. “Adolescents are uniquely susceptible to addiction. Addiction as an adolescent increases your life-long risk of addiction. And in this case, increases your risk of becoming a cigarette smoker.”

But it’s not just nicotine that’s a problem with e-cigarettes. As with tobacco, combustion causes release of potentially harmful substances,” said Peter Chai, MD, an emergency medicine doctor at Brigham and Women’s Hospital.

“Basically, there’s a heating element in these devices that kind of vaporizes the liquid,” Chai said. “You can get by-products and the breakdown of some chemicals. And some of the chemicals we know are carcinogens. These teens and high school students still have a rapidly developing brain. I don’t think we have a good grasp of what that will mean down the line.”

But ‘Taking A Toke’ makes clear what doctors have already seen. In perhaps the most powerful segment of the film, Daniel Ament is profiled. As a teenager, he wound up needing a double-lung transplant that, the film said, was due to lung damage from vaping.

In a statement, Executive Director of Vapor Technology Association Tony Abboud said, “The FDA represents the NYTS data to show that youth vaping ‘remains high,’ yet a deeper dive into the data show only a slight uptick in experimental or infrequent use while regular use remains flat or is slightly down. The fact remains that since 2019, according to the CDC, the number of high school students who have tried vaping (1 time in the last 30 days) has dropped by 50%, and the number of middle school students has plummeted by 70. During that same time period, the number of high-school students who ‘frequently’ vape has dropped by 37% and the number of middle school students has dropped by 65%. Tobacco use is down. Youth vaping is down. These are both good things and are not in dispute.”

For more information on viewing the documentary, visit https://takingatoke.com/

This is a developing story. Check back for updates as more information becomes available.

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