Kick Butts Day exerts new leverage against e-cigarettes

Monday , March 16, 2015 - 6:19 AM

Standard-Examiner correspondent

OGDEN — A whole generation has grown up without a smoking section, thanks to the Utah Indoor Clean Air Act.

But a new generation is being targeted as “replacement smokers” with an untested, unproven, addictive product — e-cigarettes — using the same old tactics, said Kristi Jones, health educator with the Tobacco Prevention and Control Program at the Weber-Morgan Health Department.

“Each year the tobacco industry is losing hundreds of thousands of customers to either death or quitting. We have seen evidence in their documents that they aggressively market, target and addict our youth to become their ‘replacement smokers’,” Jones said.

Once a year thousands of youth activists get involved in Kick Butts Day. This day raises awareness about the tobacco problem, encourages youth to be tobacco free and gains support for effective solutions to decrease tobacco use, Jones said.

This year’s event, sponsored by the Weber-Morgan Health Department and the Weber-Morgan Governing Youth Council, will be held on Friday, March 20 at the Megaplex at the Junction. The event, which will run from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m., will coincide with the 20th anniversary of the Utah Indoor Clean Act.

The Utah Indoor Clean Air Act has been protecting Utahns from secondhand smoke since Jan. 1, 1995, Jones said. Utah led the way and was one of the first states to adopt an indoor clean air act.

“This is exciting and something to celebrate. We have an entire generation in Utah that has never had to step into a smoke-filled restaurant, bowling alley, or mall or work at a workplace and breathe in secondhand smoke on a daily basis. Utahns had to fight to get this passed 20 years ago and it is something a lot of us take for granted.”

Initially the law had exemptions for bars, clubs and private organizations. Those exemptions were removed in 2006. Then in 2012 the act was amended to include e-cigarettes and hookahs.

“The UICAA helped changed the social norm of smoking. It made it socially unacceptable to smoke in indoor public places. It has helped protect patrons and workers from the harmful exposure of secondhand smoke.” Jones said. “It has brought awareness to the fact that secondhand smoke exposure is harmful and should be limited and avoided whenever possible.”

Since 2012 e-cigarettes have been included in the Utah Indoor Clean Air Act. However, a lot of people are not aware of that fact, Jones said. Smoking, which includes cigarettes, e-cigarettes and hookahs, is prohibited in all enclosed indoor places of public access and publicly owned buildings and offices. This applies to both government owned and privately owned buildings. In addition, smoking is not allowed within 25 feet of any entry, exit, open window or air intake of buildings. If someone is violating the UICAA they can receive civil penalties from the health department. The first violation is up to $100 and subsequent violations are $100 to $500. Businesses, agencies, organizations or individuals that do not comply with UICAA and fail to respond to orders by the health department may be subject to a civil penalty of up to $10,000, which can be assessed on a per occurrence basis.

“That is why we are trying to bring attention to the change that happened three years ago. Bottom line is that they (e-cigarettes) are unregulated and the contents, for the most part, are a mystery,” Jones said. “It took years for the cigarette industry to acknowledge the dangers of smoking and secondhand smoke. E-cigarettes are still so new that the effects of the aerosol are just now becoming known.”

The research coming out shows that the aerosol that is emitted from e-cigarettes is harmful to those breathing it in both first hand and second hand. According to a report by the Council on Science and Public Health, researchers detected the presence of volatile organic compounds, tobacco-related 21 carcinogens, metals, and other chemicals in e-cigarette aerosol.

As part of the celebration at the Megaplex, Jones said the health department will be distributing table tents at restaurants and other public locations throughout Weber and Morgan County to spread the Indoor Clean Air Act message.

Youth from the Weber-Morgan Governing Youth Council, Project Success and Upward Bound will also provide education on e-cigarettes and get the message across that e-cigarettes are included in the UICAA and are not a safe alternative to smoking.

“We have a growing youth use rate and the youth at the event will be educating their peers on the dangers of using e-cigarettes and encouraging them to remain nicotine free,” Jones said.

Austin Francis, president of the Weber-Morgan Governing Youth Council and a student at Fremont High School, said he has seen how various substances have destroyed people’s lives. He wanted to help facilitate a change, so he joined the council.

“Many youth members at my school varying from grades 10 to 12 smoke or vape electronic cigarettes,” he said. “They do it to get attention, to fit in or try to be cooler, so, the best way to do this is doing it in front of all your peers.

“Whether it is in the hallway, classroom, parking lot they are trying to get approval from peers to fit in. There are some that will vape just to be rebellious and show others that they really don’t care what others think. They, like many other people, don’t know that it is illegal to smoke electronic cigarettes indoors.”

Francis also said as far as the dangers are concerned, he thinks people are misinformed.

“Whoever sold these devices to these youth told them a lie and the youth using these devices pass it along, because they do not even know the vendor was lying to them so they think it is true,” he said.

He said some of the most common quotes he hears include, “Well, they are better than a traditional cigarette,” “Don’t worry, it is just nicotine. There is no tobacco so I can stop whenever,” “They don’t cause cancer like regular cigarettes so, they are safe.”

“The real goal of having floating myths out there such as these is so more youth will go out and use them, thinking that electronic cigarettes are safe. The tragic thing is so many youth are just misinformed or are too addicted to quit,” Francis said. “I am sure if the vendor would say nicotine is a highly addictive substance, and that if taken in too large of a quantity can cause poisoning, or since e-juice is not regulated you really don’t know the amount of nicotine present in the vial, as well as nicotine may not be the only drug in the vial, many of these youth never would have started.”

This is where Governing Youth Council comes in, Francis said.

“We try our very best to go out in our communities to shed some truth regarding electronic cigarettes,” he said.

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