BENTONVILLE, Ark. (KNWA) — Arkansas educators, doctors, and lawmakers teamed up to tackle the teen vaping epidemic that’s plaguing the nation.
Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge held a vaping summit on Wednesday (Oct. 9) to address the issue.
Rutledge says education about vaping products is a first priority.
“None of these products are legal for them, and none of them are safe for young people,” she said.
The message today was “get the facts straight before you vape.”
The Arkansas Department of Health is currently investigating 19 cases of vaping-related illnesses. That includes 3 confirmed cases, 10 probable cases, and 6 under investigation across the state.
“A single Juul pod contains an entire pack of cigarettes worth of nicotine,”says Dr. Joe Thompson, President and CEO of Arkansas Center for Health Improvement.
Thompson says teens are most likely to become addicted to e-cigarettes that contain nicotine because their brains are still forming.
He explains, “the Food and Drug Administration is very clear — e-cigarettes are not safer than cigarettes.”
That’s why Thompson is encouraging parents to sit down and have a conversation with their kids about the dangers of vaping.
“We now have 20% of high school students that are current users, 44% have tried an e-cigarette in their lifetime,” he said.
Vaping at Bentonville schools has increased 420%, according to Superintendent Dr. Debbie Jones.
Jones saying she’s doing her part in educating teachers.
“We began last spring educating our staff, teaching our teachers what the different vapes look like…because sometimes they’re so small they look like USB drives ” she explained.
The first summit was held on Monday, October 7 at Arkansas Children’s Hospital in Little Rock.