GRAND ISLAND - On Sept. 11, vaping will officially be banned in public in Grand Island. Teresa Anderson, director of the Central District Health Department (CDHD), said vaping is a public health danger and poses a risk to young people.

Central District is responsible for enforcing the city ordinance for smoke-free and vape-free places of work and public places where violations can carry penalties up to $500.

Last month, the Grand Island City Council voted unanimously to ban vaping in public places. The law is similar to the public smoking ban.

According to CDHD, vaping is the term commonly used when referring to nicotine delivery devices. Other common names include e-cigarettes, vaping pens, and Juuls (shaped like USB flash drives). Devices consist of a mouthpiece, a battery, and a cartridge of e-liquid or e-juice containing nicotine, and a heating component for the device powered by the battery.

What concerns Anderson is that the 2018 Nebraska Risk and Protective Factor Student Survey reported that in Grand Island, 47% of 12th-grade students, 31% of 10th-grade students, and 20% of eighth-grade students stated that they had tried vaping one or more times.

“It has turned into an epidemic for kids who like the fruity flavors and who think vaping is safe,” she said.

Anderson said vaping may sound safe, but “it isn’t.”

Anderson said that in addition to nicotine, the aerosol that users inhale and then exhale from e-cigarettes can potentially expose both themselves and bystanders to harmful substances, including nicotine; heavy metals such as nickel, tin and lead; volatile organic compounds; cancer-causing chemicals; flavoring such as diacetyl, a chemical linked to severe lung disease; and ultrafine particles that can be inhaled deeply into the lungs.

Anderson said the Centers for Disease Control are looking into 215 possible cases of severe respiratory illness, as well as several deaths potentially linked to vaping. Symptoms of the disease include coughing, shortness of breath, chest pain, fatigue, nausea and vomiting.

Recently, the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services confirmed that they are investigating several possible causes of severe pulmonary disease associated with vaping as four possible cases of the disease have been reported to the state.

They have sent notices to health care providers advising them to consider vaping-related illness in patients presenting with respiratory symptoms and a history of vaping and that they should report suspected cases to their local health department or the state.

According to the Omaha World-Herald, generally, the patients have been mostly healthy and in their late teens and 20s and have experienced respiratory symptoms such as coughing, shortness of breath or chest pain. Some have experienced nausea and vomiting. In most cases, symptoms have come on suddenly, but in some cases, they’ve manifested over several weeks.

“Vaping has been wrongly touted as a safe smoking cessation aid,” Anderson said. “We don’t know that much yet about health effects for bystanders from the aerosols exhaled during vaping, but nicotine and other toxins from e-cigarettes are certainly a hazard. The use of dermal (skin patches and oral nicotine products like Nicorette) is safer for nicotine replacement and without risk for bystanders.”

She said that when substances from smoking or vaping are deposited on surfaces such as counters and tabletops, it is called third-hand exposure. A recent study on substances remaining on surfaces where vaping occurred indicates that there is a risk for third-hand exposure to nicotine from e-cigarettes. Additionally, there is a risk that small children may be drawn to attractive nicotine-filled cartridges, where they are exposed to unsafe levels of nicotine.

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