Reston, VA

Fairfax County teenagers are vaping less than their peers nationwide, a county survey of middle and high school students found.

15.1% of the 48,915 students who responded to the 2019-2020 Fairfax County Youth Survey reported vaping within the past 30 days, compared to 22.5% of teenagers in the U.S. overall. The survey results were released on Oct. 20.

Nicotine remains the drug most frequently used for vaping, which involves the inhalation of an aerosol through a battery-powered device, but its usage declined from 16.7% in 2018 to under 12% in 2019.

About half as many students reported using flavoring in this year’s survey (5.5%) as they did in the previous year’s (10.3%), but the use of marijuana rose from 8% in 2018 to 9% in 2019.

The number of Fairfax County teens who say they have vaped within their lifetime dropped from 28% in 2018 to 25% in 2019, according to the survey, which is given annually to Fairfax County Public Schools students in sixth, eighth, 10th, and 12th grades.

Fairfax County did not add questions about vaping to its annual youth survey until 2018, making it hard to determine whether the decline in reported vaping is a real trend, but county officials are encouraged by the results.

“The rates for vaping among Fairfax County youth went down considerably from 2018 despite the upward national trend,” Fairfax County Office of Strategy Management for Health and Human Services public information officer Shweta Adyanthaya said. “This is a promising sign that our youth are heeding the concerns regarding vaping in general.”

County officials say they remain concerned about the health effects of vaping, especially during a pandemic caused by a coronavirus that attacks people’s lungs.

Research on how COVID-19 affects people who have used e-cigarettes is limited, but the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention linked a contaminant found in e-cigarettes to an outbreak of e-cigarette or vaping product use-associated lung injuries (EVALI) that had killed or hospitalized 2,807 people in the U.S. as of Feb. 18.

Though it is a potential benefit, the CDC says the effectiveness of e-cigarettes as an aid for helping adults quit smoking is unknown. The agency warns against vaping for youth, young adults, pregnant adults, and adults who do not currently use tobacco products.

“We know that the brains of adolescents continue to develop until about the age [of] 25 and that nicotine can have harmful effects,” Fairfax County Health Director Dr. Gloria Addo-Ayensu said. “Now, with evidence that vaping may be linked with worse outcomes of COVID-19 infection, it’s more important than ever that we offer solutions to help young people.”

FCPS Student Safety and Wellness Office coordinator Stefan Mascoll says 697 students came to the office for tobacco-related substance abuse during the 2019-20 school year, a number that might have been higher if the COVID-19 pandemic did not close schools in March.

“Young people who use e-cigarettes may be vaping even more to cope with stress and social isolation, or they may be experiencing difficult nicotine withdrawal symptoms because of limited access to e-cigarettes,” the Fairfax County Health Department says.

To combat vaping, Fairfax County and FCPS have partnered with the nonprofit Truth Initiative to promote This Is Quitting, a free program that sends supportive text messages to teens and young adults seeking to quit e-cigarettes.

Started in January 2019, This Is Quitting has more than 206,000 enrollees nationwide. People in Fairfax County can join by texting VapeFreeFFX to 88709.

James Madison High School student Sid Thakker, who won an award from the National Institute on Drug Abuse in 2019 for a science fair project about nicotine addiction, has been assisting with the implementation of This Is Quitting in Fairfax County.

“As a senior in high school, I know students aren’t given much information on treatments if they are addicted, but the program is the perfect mix of creative treatments and advice,” Thakker said. “I am excited to see the impact it will make in FCPS.”

Image via Fairfax County

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With many businesses shutting their doors for good during the COVID-19 pandemic, cigar aficionados will have a new place to get their tobacco fix in when Cigar Town opens a new store in Herndon next week.

The shop, located at the Franklin Farm Village Center, will hold its grand opening on Sept. 21 becoming the fourth store for the family-owned chain of cigar shops in Fairfax County.

Unlike their other stores, the new Cigar Town shop in Herndon will have a walk-in humidor and a public smoking lounge that will be open to costumers who want to sit back and smoke a cigar after purchasing one from the shop’s wide assortment, according to Hassan Hamdan, who helps manages the stores along with his uncle and father.

While social distancing concerns could keep cigar aficionados away from the store Hamdan said, he hopes the perks for the Herndon store will attract a new customer base. Following health guidelines, the shop will require costumers to wear a mask before entertaining and will limit capacity for the smoking lounge Hamdan said.

Cigar Town signed the lease for the shop in January before the pandemic and has had to push back the grand opening by a few months because of the economic downturn from the COVID-19 pandemic, Hamdan said.

“I mean, the challenges are obvious — they’re financial,” Hamdan said. “Just opening a store takes a lot of money for construction, a lot for product, a lot for advertising — all of that has kind of been scaled back and slowed down.”

Cigar Town was originally started by the Hamdan family over 20-years-ago slowly expanding their business of cigar shops with locations now in Tysons, Fairfax and Reston. While Hamdan said some costumers have been opting to purchase their cigars online and to smoke them at home, he said family’s business is banking on costumer-loyalty built over decades in Northern Virginia.

“We have lived in Fairfax and Herndon since 1987, so hopefully we’ve developed some skills in building a customer base,” Hamdan said. “We’re going to have to apply them now.”

Photo via Cigar Town

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Fairfax County officials warn that vaping may be linked to a higher rate of COVID-19-associated side effects.

Today (Monday), the county’s Office of Emergency Preparedness and Response shared information on the possible associations between vaping and the novel coronavirus, noting that vaping and e-cigarettes have grown in popularity among teens and young adults in the last few years.

As schools reopen virtually and in-person in the Tysons area, county officials want people who vape to know that initial research shows that vaping, which has been linked to lung damage, could be tied to more severe complications of COVID-19.

“According to the 2018-2019 Fairfax County Youth Survey, 20% of Fairfax County Public School students ages 13 to 18 vape, similar to the national average of 20.8%,” the message said.

The “significant shift” of people in their 20s or younger getting COVID-19 that Gov. Ralph Northam pointed out in late July is continuing both statewide and in Fairfax County.

As of today, data from the state health department shows that people in their 20s represent roughly 17.7% of the total COVID-19 cases in the Fairfax Health District — the third-highest age group behind people in their 30s (19.3%) and 40s (17.9%). Statewide, people in their 20s account for the highest percentage (20.1%) of all of the age groups for COVID-19 cases.

The county’s health department now plans to launch a text to quit program with the Truth Initiative aimed at kids and young adults, the county said.

The county, which noted that research on vaping and COVID-19 is limited and still ongoing, spotlighted work done by the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine and the Stanford University School of Medicine.

“Young people who had used both cigarettes and e-cigarettes in the previous 30 days were almost five times as likely to experience COVID-19 symptoms, such as coughing, fever, tiredness and difficulty breathing as those who never smoked or vaped,” Stanford found.

While researchers in France earlier this year claimed that nicotine may prevent the virus from attaching to cells, the Centers for Disease Control says that smokers may be at an increased risk for worse COVID-19 complications than non-smokers.

Photo by CDC on Unsplash

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As the number of local students who vape soars,  Fairfax County Public Schools doubling down on how to decrease the use of e-cigarettes.

In September, Fairfax County Public Schools pursued more stringent measures if a student was caught vaping on campus.  Additionally, the school board also classified vaping as a prohibited activity in the school system’s student rights and responsibilities handbook last year.

Lucy Caldwell, the school system’s communication director, said that FCPS also works with the Fairfax County Health Department to develop a toolkit for students to provide educational information about the health impacts of e-cigarettes.

Stemming the rise of e-cigarettes — which some see as a safe alternative to smoking — is a nationwide challenge. The number of youth who are e-cigarette users jumped by 1.5 million between 2017 and 2018, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. No change was found in the use of other tobacco products during this time.

A recent survey administered by FCPS found that one in five students vaped recently.

South Lakes High School held four parent sessions through the Parent Teacher Student Administration or administration-sponsored meetings to help parents partner with the school on addressing this issue, according to SLHS Principal Kim Retzer.

The school also has a substance abuse prevention specialization who provides support for students and resources for parents, Retzer told Reston Now.

“South Lakes deals with students vaping as do other high schools in the area,” she said.

At Herndon High School, Principal Liz Noto says that the school is working with FCPS’s Student Safety and Wellness Office to educate the student body about the issue. Like other schools, HHS also finds ways for students seeking to quit vaping.

Photo via Unsplash/Tbel Abuseridze

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CVS store with Minute Clinic/Credit: CVSCVS announced on Wednesday it will stop selling tobacco products in its thousands of stores nationwide.

The huge drugstore chain says it will phase out cigarettes, cigars and chewing tobacco by Oct. 1 as it continues to focus on health care. CVS  and other major drugstore chains have been adding clinics to their stores for several years. Their pharmacists deliver flu shots and other immunizations and basic services.

CVS CEO Larry Merlo says the company decided it can no longer sell cigarettes at places where it also provides health care.

“The sale of tobacco products is inconsistent with our purpose of helping people on their path to better health,” Merlo said in a statement.

The move will cost the company about $2 billion in annual revenue, the Associated Press reports. However, CVS executives said they expect it to also help the health care business grow.

CVS has more than 7,000 locations, including two in Reston — one at South Lakes Village Center and one at Plaza America. A third will soon open on the ground floor of The Avant apartments at Reston Town Center.

Do you think this is a good decision by CVS? Take our poll.

 

Photo of CVS store with a Minute Clinic courtesy of CVS.

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