UT Tyler to Begin Efforts to Investigate Vaping Epidemic Among East Texas Teens

Publication Date: 01/24/2020

UT Tyler is beginning efforts to investigate the vaping epidemic among teenagers in East Texas. The Fisch College of Pharmacy, in collaboration with UT Health Science Center–Tyler, is launching a multi-faceted community outreach program that combines a public health and welfare component with a research endeavor.

The entities are working to partner with local independent school districts to provide an educational in-service on the health ramifications of nicotine use and vaping.

With an initial survey sent to participating school districts, officials hope to learn more about the nicotine products high school students are using, why they may be using them and what their perceptions are about the products’ safety.

“The results will assist us in targeting an approach in Phase II of our initiative, which is launching a comprehensive adolescent tobacco cessation and reduction program, delivered by our faculty and staff,” said Dr. Justin Reinert, UT Tyler clinical assistant professor and University project co-lead.

Reinert said there are still many unknowns about the safety of vaping, e-cigarette and other non-traditional delivery methods of tobacco that warrant additional research. Most studies about the enduring effects of vaping have focused on lung cancer, although additional research could link vaping to other dangers and even other cancer types.

“As of last month, there have been just shy of 3,000 cases of EVALI (E-cigarette or Vaping product use Associated Lung Injury), and unfortunately, Texas has had quite a few cases,” Reinert said. “It’s imperative that we address this in a comprehensive and unified effort, which is why we’re so grateful and excited to be partnering with colleagues from the School of Community and Rural Health at UT Health Science Center.”

Dose escalation is also a growing concern in the healthcare community, he said.

The collaborative work hits home for UT Tyler’s Dr. Bradley Brazill, whose teenaged son experienced the effects of vaping.

“As a parent of three boys, I became acutely aware of adolescent vaping through my oldest son’s curiosity and acquiescence to peer pressure by his football teammates to vape,” said Brazill, UT Tyler chair and associate professor of clinical sciences. “He shared that he was initially hooked by the flavor, but soon nicotine addiction dominated. He experienced a fairly rapid dose escalation and now recognizes that when he stopped, he suffered withdrawal symptoms.”

According to Reinert, a cigarette may have anywhere from six to 28 milligrams of tobacco per cigarette, but several cartridges for the other products have upwards of 50 milligrams. In addition, a person may be exposed to a whole pack of cigarettes if one vaping cartridge is used.

Community engagement opportunities and initial townhall meeting plans are currently in discussion.

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