Lauren’s Helping Kids Breathe Easier

In April 2018, 9–year-old Lauren Wilson shook hands with Senator Daniel Biss and sat down to educate him about a new law being considered in the Illinois legislature – Stock Emergency Asthma Rescue Medication in Schools. The legislation allows schools across the state to keep a supply of albuterol on hand to deal with asthma episodes and other respiratory emergencies, similar to how they keep an EpiPen on hand for allergy emergencies. Advocates like Lauren helped get the law passed in May 2018– now, they’re trying to make sure that it gets implemented. For her first persuasive writing assignment in 3rd grade, she wrote a 3-page paper on why they need to use the new law to stock albuterol in her school.

Father, daughter and senator pose during lung health advocacy meeting.

Lauren and father Jeremy meet with Senator Biss

“Why does it take so long?” That’s Lauren’s newest question for Illinois State legislators. For kids like her living with asthma who rely on medications like albuterol, waiting for the law to take effect impacts their ability to live with asthma. Lauren carries her inhaler in her backpack and keeps a backup with the school nurse, but those medications are specific to Lauren. The new law lets schools keep ‘undesignated’ medication – meaning it is not prescribed to a specific person – that can be administered to anyone in respiratory distress. This is an important fail-safe in case someone runs out of medication, forgets or loses an inhaler or, as often happens, experiences breathing difficulty for the first time and hasn’t been diagnosed yet. Lauren wants her school to be as prepared for an asthma episode as she is. Lauren has been an advocate for those living with asthma for most of her life, which stems from her own experience with respiratory issues. Lauren was in and out of the hospital and emergency care as an infant. “It was the scariest experience of my life,” her father, Jeremy remembers. “When they tell you that you should say goodbye to your child after hearing she has gone into respiratory failure.”

After her respiratory failure at six months old, doctors diagnosed Lauren with reactive airway because she was too young at the time for a full asthma diagnosis. She began treatment at that time. At four years old, her pulmonologist made the expected diagnosis of asthma. Throughout this journey, Lauren’s mom, Stephanie, began researching ways the entire family could be proactive in Lauren’s care. They worked closely with a pediatrician to develop an asthma action plan and watched Lauren’s symptoms to identify her triggers. Stephanie’s research also led her to Respiratory Health Association, and the entire family got involved. Lauren’s last hospitalization came last fall. Her asthma has been mostly under control since, but it always requires careful monitoring. In the meantime, Lauren continues to participate in sports and spend time with her friends. “I feel pretty fine doing sports,” Lauren says. “I usually don’t have triggers with sports, mostly just allergies and colds.”

Stephanie reminds her, “If you really pushed, we’d give you 2 pumps of albuterol for stair climbs.” Lauren is very proud of the collection of medals she has from sports and charity events. “I keep them all around the house,” she says mischievously. “We’ll find them everywhere,” Stephanie confirms. In October 2018 RHA presented her an award for her asthma advocacy efforts. The Next Generation Advocate awards are given to young people who stand up for a future free of lung disease and to protect our clean air. Lauren keeps that award in the front of the house, where everyone can see it.

Youth advocate and policy director pose with award for efforts to support lung health

Lauren and Matt Maloney, RHA Directory, Health Policy during the 2018 awards ceremony

She also has medals for Hustle Chicago, RHA’s stair climb, and the CowaLUNGa Charity Bike Tour, which she participated in as an 18-mile rider the first weekend in August. But there are challenges that come with asthma, summer heat, and physical activity. “We didn’t go out and ride today,” Jeremy mentions. “But she did 9 miles a few days ago.” Before July’s heat wave hit the Midwest, Lauren rode a couple times a week. But as the weather got hotter, the air quality worsened and became unhealthy for people with lung disease. Now that it’s cooled down and air quality has improved, she’s back to good riding conditions. It’s just another thing her parents monitor to help keep her asthma under control.

Jeremy and Stephanie joined Lauren for their 5th year of riding CowaLUNGa. She rode 18 miles on the back of Jeremy’s bike and plans to ride the 18 miles on her own bike next year. With plenty of time to train, she’s ready for the challenge. Lauren proudly describes her bike as blue and silver. “I just learned how to shift gears on it. I went on my first hill recently, and down. That’ll make the hill on the first day not as bad,” she says.

Another milestone she’s ready for?

“She wants that big 20 year trophy,” Jeremy says of the celebratory trophies RHA gives five, 10, 15 and 20 year riders. “And I believe she’ll get it.”

Besides asking her fellow riders to join her in supporting RHA’s advocacy efforts, she offers this advice: “Get out and ride. Wear comfy clothes: bike shorts, gloves and a helmet.” To join The Wilsons in their efforts to fund asthma research, advocacy and education, support their fundraising here.

Save the date: COPD Patient Conference

Join us on Thursday, November 21, 2019 for Respiratory Health Association’s 16th annual Living Better Together COPD Conference at Meridian Banquets and Conference Center in Rolling Meadows, IL. RHA’s goal at the 2019 COPD conference is to promote disease awareness and to help people who are living with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) to become educated consumers of healthcare, as well as effective disease self-managers.

At last year’s event, nearly 300 individuals living with COPD, caregivers and pulmonary rehab staff enjoyed a variety of sessions, including a moderated keynote, “Living Everyday with COPD”. Panelists Ravi Kalhan, MD, MS and Harvey Wolf, Psy.D shared recommendations on preventing COPD exacerbations, methods for monitoring symptoms of COPD, and tips to manage the comorbidities of anxiety and depression in patients with COPD.

Conference planning is under way and people living with COPD and their caregivers will not want to miss this year’s event. Registration will open in September. Supplemental oxygen and bus transportation from locations throughout Chicagoland will be offered.

Living Better Together is the country’s largest patient-focused COPD conference. We welcome individual or group attendance. If you have any questions about Living Better Together logistics, programming or attendance, please contact RHA program coordinator Avanthi Chatrathi at (312) 229-6186 or [email protected].

New Rule Decreases Coal Pollution

For nearly two years we’ve been fighting an effort to allow coal power plants to nearly double the amount of lung and climate-damaging pollution they pump into the air we breathe. The proposed changes to the state’s air pollution control rules were negotiated behind closed doors by the company that owns eight polluting power plants and then-Governor Bruce Rauner’s administration.

Respiratory Health Association sent advocates and policy experts to testify against this attempted rollback at hearings, working with a coalition of environmental and health organizations across the state and the Illinois Attorney General. We also worked with local media to shed light on the situation and inform the public.

In a victory last month, the matter was settled and vast pollution increases were avoided. RHA testimony about coal power plant pollution at a hearing in 2018

The new rules require Vistra, the company that owns half of Illinois’ remaining coal-burning power plants, to close 2,000 megawatts of dirty electricity production by the end of this year. That’s roughly the equivalent of three coal plants.

In addition, the rule caps the emissions across the entire fleet at a level roughly equivalent to the pollution produced each year over the last two years – down considerably from the original request to double emissions.

Coal power has long been in decline because it is more expensive than other methods of producing electricity. Renewable, non-polluting wind and solar energy are becoming less expensive and more reliable as primary power sources every day and continue to grow dramatically in Illinois.

Legislation known as the Clean Energy Jobs Act is also gathering momentum in the Illinois General Assembly. It creates a path to eliminate burning fossil fuels to produce electricity while dramatically increasing investment in wind and solar energy while also accelerating electrification of transportation.

The Clean Energy Jobs Act didn’t get a vote in the last legislative session, but with nearly 80 legislators sponsoring it, we plan to continue building support for the legislation during the veto session this fall.

If you’d like to be stay up to date about clean air and lung-friendly policy efforts like these, sign up for RHA’s advocacy action alerts. You’ll be alerted to changes in policy and given the option to easily contact your elected officials via email.

Your Advocacy Influences Tobacco Policy Wins

Over the past 6 months, many of you personally met with dozens of lawmakers in your communities and in Springfield. RHA and advocates talked to lawmakers about Tobacco 21, clean energy jobs legislation and the dangers of tobacco and e-cigarettes. The impact of your visits, letters and emails can be felt in the many legislative initiatives that passed the Illinois Legislature this session.

Here’s an update on the tobacco control victories we achieved together!

Tobacco 21 Becomes Law in Illinois

After four years of advocacy efforts, Tobacco 21 was signed into law. The new law will take effect on July 1, 2019.  In the past few years, we had over 150 in-person visits with lawmakers where we discussed Tobacco 21. Youth advocates, volunteers with COPD, special event participants and health professionals joined RHA staff for these visits. We also had monthly in-district visits with Advocacy Champions and volunteers thanking legislators who supported lung health policies during the 2018 session.  Congratulations and thank you! Your personal stories, experiences and connections to this issue made a difference!

State Cigarette Tax to Increase by $1 per Pack

Raising the tobacco tax is one of the most effective tobacco prevention initiatives. To demonstrate support for a tobacco tax, RHA joined with partners to commission a poll that showed over 60% of Illinoisans support a tobacco tax. Increasing the Illinois cigarette tax by $1.00 per pack will generate $159.35 million in new annual revenue for the state as well as providing many health benefits:

  • Reduce youth smoking by 11 percent.
  • Prevent 28,700 kids under 18 from becoming adults who smoke.
  • Help 48,700 adults who currently smoke quit.
  • Prevent 21,000 premature smoking-caused deaths.
  • Provide $1.56 billion in long-term health care cost savings from adult and youth smoking declines.

Illinois to Tax E-cigarettes

Consistent with the federal government, e-cigs are now defined by the state as tobacco products and will be subject to licensing requirements as a result of this legislation.  E-cigarettes will now be taxed at 15% of wholesale price. This is a significant step because e-cig use is skyrocketing. Our polling also showed that 73% of Illinoisans support taxing e-cigarettes.  We applaud the Illinois Legislature for adding a tax to these addictive products.

No Smoking in Motor Vehicles

There is no safe level of secondhand smoke, and young people, in particular, are susceptible to the dangers of inhaling secondhand smoke. Legislation passed this year that will make it illegal to smoke in cars with children in the vehicle. Illinois joins eight other states that currently offer protections from secondhand smoke for minors in vehicles

RHA Advocates for Federal Investment in Prevention

Respiratory Health Association joined partners in the public health community in supporting federal legislation that aims to restore funding to the Prevention and Public Health Fund. This bill would increase the funding level starting in FY2020. Investments in prevention provide a return on investment in health care savings and improved health outcomes.

 

Thank you for your continued support in reducing the deadly toll of tobacco in our community!

If you’d like to get move involved in Respiratory Health Association’s advocacy work, become an Advocacy Champion  or e-advocate today.

10 steps we’ve taken together to prevent lung disease & promote clean air

It’s the end of our program year, and we want to share some of the ways your support helped our work preventing lung disease and promoting clean air. These are just a few of the ways we were able to give back to our communities in Chicago, Illinois and across the country over the last year.

Women’s Lung Health

We re-launched our Catch Your Breath® campaign to raise awareness and funds for women’s lung health research. One out of every six women in the U.S. lives with chronic lung disease. Through a partnership with Jewelry Television, we reached millions of people and raised funds to address lung disease.

Tobacco 21 Becomes Law

Raising the tobacco purchase age to 21 protects kids, saves lives and saves money. After a veto last year, RHA volunteers, board members and event participants doubled down to ensure Illinois lawmakers again passed Tobacco 21 legislation. This April, the Governor signed the bill into law.

Caring for COPD Caregivers

As a part of the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute’s Learn More Breathe Better Campaign to empower COPD patients, RHA studied the usefulness of our COPD Caregiver’s Toolkit among caregivers in four Midwestern states. Between 80-90% of participants found the Toolkit to be relevant, understandable and would recommend it to another caregiver.

RHA Associates Board Grows

Part of our commitment to creating a better future includes shaping future leaders in the lung health community. This year we welcomed several new members to the Associates Board where members network, learn about volunteer leadership and have access to professional development opportunities while supporting RHA’s mission. Do you know a promising young professional looking for volunteer leadership experience? Nominate a new AB member. 

Training Educators for Asthma Emergencies

RHA’s online training in emergency asthma response reached more than 9,500 school staff. The results are in: after the training, over 90% of staff & teachers were able to identify a child having difficulty with asthma, knew how to help students avoid asthma triggers and knew how to respond to an asthma emergency.

Next Generation Advocates at RHA's 2018 volunteer recognition night

Next Generation Advocates

RHA has a secret weapon behind our recent advocacy successes – youth advocates. From third graders at Chicago’s Village Leadership Academy to RHA event participants, young people are raising their voices to help build a future free of lung disease—all while learning about local government and the value of civic engagement.

Supporting Providers, Supporting Patients

RHA’s Counsel to Quit® brief tobacco intervention training reached over 500 healthcare providers. Outcomes were published in the Journal of Substance Abuse Treatment and showed that our program gave providers greater confidence in their ability to help smokers and to answer questions about the use of e-cigarettes.

Kicking the Habit

Through our City-funded Chicago Quits program, an initiative helping high-risk adults quit smoking, RHA delivered the Courage to Quit® smoking cessation program to nearly 500 program participants with a 27% quit rate among program completers, compared to 5% when people try to quit smoking cold turkey.

Improving Lung Cancer Outcomes

Dr. Kevin Haas used RHA research funding to study educational lung cancer screening resources. He determined current online information was written at a reading level many patients couldn’t understand and set out to make clear materials that help all patients realize the benefits of lung cancer screening.

Bringing Clean Energy to Chicago

RHA worked with the Chicago City Council to pass a resolution for Chicago to use 100% clean, renewable power in all buildings in the city by 2035. It also sets a 2040 deadline for using electric buses in the entire CTA fleet, and we are currently working with Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot to reach this goal even sooner.

Your support made these and other lung health victories possible. Thank you. 

Sign up for our monthly newsletter to get updates like these throughout the year.

23rd Annual CowaLUNGa Takes Place August 3-5, 2019

Registration for CowaLUNGa Charity Bike Tour 2019 is now open! Escape the noise of the city for a weekend and explore the scenic Midwest as you bike through northern Illinois into southern Wisconsin.

About CowaLUNGa 2019 Charity Bike Tour

Along the way, you’ll experience an unparalleled level of camaraderie and support from other cyclists and Respiratory Health Association, while helping RHA achieve its vision of healthy lungs and clean air for all.

This is RHA’s 23rd year hosting the CowaLUNGa bike ride, so you can rely on our expertise from years of experience to give you a world-class event.

Choose to ride 18 or 65 miles in one day, 130 miles in two days or 190 miles over three days.

What’s Included When you Register?

All routes are one-way with free return transportation back to the start line and include full SAG and medical support; two daily rest stops; breakfast and dinner. Free overnight parking is available onsite at Gurnee Mills for the event’s duration.

Two and three-day riders (130 & 190 mile routes) also receive comfortable, indoor housing accommodations.

Saturday night is spent at the newly-remodeled Conference Point Center (CPC) on the beautiful shores of Lake Geneva. CPC has 5 stars on Facebook and 4.5 stars on Google reviews!

Sunset over Lake Geneva from Conference Point Center in William's Bay Wisconsin A bedroom at Conference Point Center - Night one of Cowalunga 2019 Living area of a cabin at Conference Point Center Conference Point Center grounds during CowaLUNGa Charity Bike Tour

Sunday night is CowaLUNGa’s college throw back night at University of Wisconsin Whitewater. Prop those dorm doors open and relive those carefree campus days, complete with games and entertainment in the UWW Student Center.

Dorms at University of Wisconsin WhitewaterUniversity of Wisconsin Whitewater Campus FountainCowaLUNGa entertainment at UWW Student Center

Read more about housing, logistics and other event details here.

Additionally, every participant receives an event shirt and a finisher’s medal at the end of the route to commemorate the bike ride!

CowaLUNGa 2019 Costs & Deadlines

Registration fees and fundraising minimums vary by mileage. Early bird registration discounts are available until June 15.  First-time riders that select two or three day routes receive 50% off registration. Call 312-628-0200 for more information on or to register with our first-time rider discount.

 

CowaLUNGa Charity Bike Tour 2019 Registration fees chart

For more details, see Costs & Deadlines.

Funds raised support RHA’s programs:

 

Still thinking it over? Sign up for CowaLUNGa email updates.

Ready to ride CowaLUNGa 2019? Start your journey!

Nestor’s Giving Cancer a Run for Its Money

Before January 2018, Nestor Rivera had never even run a 5k. Now, less than two years later, he plans to run the Chicago Marathon with Respiratory Health Association’s Lung Power Team.

“You’d be amazed at what you can train your body to do,” Nestor says. “If you’re just consistent – not perfect – consistent.”

Nestor Rivera running a race

Nestor Rivera is going from couch to marathon in 2 years!

Nestor chose the Lung Power Team because of its mission to fight lung disease. His parents were in their teens when they began smoking. He recalls that his parents were chain smokers from the time he was born to the time he was 9 years old. As a child, he recognized them only with a cigarette in their hand.

But when his sister was diagnosed with thyroid cancer at age 21, they feared the possibility that their secondhand smoke had been a contributing factor in the development of her illness. They quit smoking right then. Then in 2013, Nestor’s mother Milagros went in for a lung biopsy to explore an unusual spot  found during tests. After the biopsy, Nestor got a call that he describes as “absolutely earth-shattering.”

“You think you’re going to get a phone call that says everything has gone routinely. Next thing you know, I got word that one third of her lung is gone.”

Nestor’s mother was diagnosed with stage one lung cancer and had a third of her right lung resected on the very same day. Immediately after the surgery Milagros’ breathing was different, but over time she settled into a new normal. Nestor says she’s now feeling great, and as of a few weeks ago, Milagros has been in remission for almost six years. “It’s amazing what your body can tolerate,” Nestor says.

 

Nestor Rivera with his parents in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin.

Nestor Rivera is running the Chicago marathon in honor of his mother, a lung cancer survivor.

 

His mother’s diagnosis made a huge impact on Nestor and was part of what spurred him to take up running. He’d never been a smoker, but he began to consider – what are other actions could he take to improve his overall health? Since his first race, the Chicago Cubs Race to Wrigley, Nestor has completed eleven more 5k races, two 10ks and a half marathon. He has three more half marathons on the docket for 2019 before running with the Lung Power Team in the fall.

“If there’s a challenge, I’m gonna take it,” Nestor says. “All you really need are a good pair of shoes. It’s not about getting the best time. It’s about achieving things that you didn’t think were possible.”

Nestor’s fundraising has now hit $3,016.20, putting him in first place towards the Lung Power Team’s $42,000 goal. His advice to fellow fundraisers?

Personalize the message.

In addition to his mother’s story, he also shares that his father-in-law has had chronic asthma his entire life. Nestor runs for him, too.

“When I’ve reached out to people individually, I’ve gotten more results,” he says. One challenge Nestor says he faces is that donors don’t feel they can contribute enough. “Some [people] think it’s better not to donate than to donate less than $100, but that’s not true. Every bit counts.” He notes how important it is to make every person feel like their donation makes a difference, no matter the amount.

His final note for fundraising matches his advice for training:

“Persistence.”

To help Nestor and his family fundraise for lung cancer research, asthma, and Tobacco 21, visit Nestor’s fundraising page.

RHA Staffers Hustle For The Mission

On February 24 more than 3,000 people came together in support of a future free of lung disease. A future with healthy lungs and clean air for all. The occasion? Hustle Chicago, RHA’s charity stair climb up 875 N. Michigan Ave., the building formerly called the John Hancock Center.

At RHA we don’t just serve our mission as part of our day jobs – almost every member of our staff participates in our events or volunteers personal time. And this year’s Hustle was no exception. The 2019 RHA Hustlers team brought 21 employees, friends and family together to go the extra mile (or 1,632 steps!) for lung health.

RHA Hustlers team photos at Hustle Chicago 2019

Why We Do What We Do

To share with you some of the passion the team brings to our mission, here’s a quote from RHA Hustlers team captain and RHA staffer, Lesli Vaughan.

“As many of you know, I work in tobacco cessation and prevention at RHA. Mainly that means I work to prevent teens and young adults from starting to smoke or use tobacco products and to help those who do smoke to be smoke free. It’s some of the most rewarding work I’ve done in my life.

There’s nothing quite like hearing someone who smoked multiple packs of cigarettes a day tell you how proud he is of himself because he is now smoke free for the first time in 40 years. Or see a high school student stand up in front of a room full of legislators to tell them why they should adopt a Tobacco 21 policy.

I always say I’m doing the easy work — it’s these people who do the hard stuff. I’m just there to support them.

Unfortunately, the tobacco industry has loads of money and they fight every single day to get more people hooked on cigarettes, e-cigarettes, and other tobacco products.

Despite their non-stop attempts, we can win this battle. But honestly, we need help to do it. As a small non-profit, we don’t have nearly as much money as the tobacco lobbyists that we fight against daily. Your support helps RHA reach new people with our Courage to Quit cessation program and educate more teens, lawmakers, and others about the dangers of tobacco.”

Together the team as raised over $17,000, but we’re still short of our overall fundraising goal for Hustle Chicago 2019.

 

You Can Make a Difference

Thanks to an anonymous donor, all fundraising campaigns in 2019 lead by RHA staff are generously matched $2 for every $1 raised. This effectively triples all gifts given to RHA staff campaigns!

If you’d like to support Respiratory Health Association’s work toward a future free of lung cancer, asthma and COPD and want to see your gift go three times further, donate to one of our RHA Hustlers today.

Joel Africk

Avanthi Chatrathi

Adrienne Hiegel

Mary Rosenwinkel

Magda Slowik

Brian Urbaszewski

Lesli Vaughan

Joann Wong

The Hustle Chicago fundraising deadline is end of day TOMORROW Friday, March 15th.

Over 30 advocates travel to Springfield for State Lung Health Education Day

With each visit, email, and phone call, dedicated individuals are creating change. Every step is a move toward a healthier, cleaner future.

On Wednesday, March 6, 2019, Respiratory Health Association’s (RHA) staff and lung health advocates traveled to the Illinois State Capitol for State Lung Health Education Day, RHA’s annual statewide advocacy event.

Over 30 constituents met with House and Senate legislators to support this year’s top policy priorities:

  • Tobacco 21
  • Clean Energy Jobs Act
  • Allow communities to ban the use of coal tar pavement sealants
  • Encourage the use of electric power vehicles
  • Increase the tax on cigarettes and taxing e-cigarettes

Constituents met with the following representatives and senators:

  • Costello
  • Davis
  • Durkin
  • Evans
  • Feigenholtz
  • Gabel
  • Gong-Gershowitz
  • Guzzardi
  • Harmon
  • Hernandez
  • Hurley
  • Kalish
  • Mussman
  • Ortiz
  • Slaughter
  • Smith
  • Tarver
  • Walker
  • Walsh
  • Welch
  • Williams
  • Yingling
  • Bush
  • Cullerton
  • Cunningham
  • Curran
  • Fine
  • Glowiak
  • Harris
  • Hastings
  • Hunter
  • Koehler
  • Landek
  • McClure
  • Mulroe
  • Murphy
  • Peters
  • Sims

During the visits, advocates thanked these legislators for supporting #Tobacco21 and informed them about other bills to support to continue furthering Illinois’ lung health including smoke-free initiatives, cleaning up the air, and including e-cigarettes and vaping products in the Smoke Free Illinois Act.

Tobacco 21 aims to raise the legal smoking age from 18 to 21 in Illinois. This will save lives by reducing the number of new smokers and smoking-related illness.  95 percent of smokers start before the age of 21, so this is a crucial time for prevention. For the economy, Tobacco 21 will also save on medical costs and lost productivity.

Group of volunteer advocates in the Illinois state capital building

RHA Lung Health Advocates in Springfield on March 6, 2019.

RHA Advocacy Wins

For over 110 years, RHA has been committed to effecting change through lung disease research, education and advocacy, and they have multiple previous successes:

  • Stock Emergency Asthma Rescue Medication, a law that permits schools to keep rescue asthma medication, such as albuterol, and allows trained school staff and nurses to administer the medication.
  • Illinois Future Energy Jobs Act, an innovative clean energy law that vitalizes Illinois’ economy by creating energy efficient programs, funding renewable energy, and producing thousands of energy efficient jobs.
  • Smoke Free Illinois Act, a law that prohibits smoking cigarettes in public spaces, including schools, offices, retail stores, and restaurants.

Did you miss State Lung Health Education Day?

Don’t worry, there are plenty of opportunities to be a lung health advocate! Join our E-Advocacy Team to support lung health at the municipal, state, and national levels. RHA offers plenty of opportunities to connect with your representatives through email, phone, and in person. Next year, everyone signed up as an e-advocate will receive updates about State Lung Health Education Day 2020.

RHA Statement on E-Cigarettes & Vaping Products

Respiratory Health Association Statement on Electronic Cigarettes & Vaping Products

As conventional cigarette use in the United States has declined, electronic cigarette (e-cigarette) use rates have continued to climb, particularly among youth. Vaping devices, such as the widely popularized Juul, have become a mainstay in places of education, with 42.2 percent of U.S. high school students having used an e-cigarette. Recent data show that U.S. youth e-cigarette use increased by 78 percent in 2018, prompting U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Commissioner Gottlieb to declare youth use of e-cigarettes an “epidemic”.

The increased use of e-cigarettes and vaping devices by youth poses a grave public health concern. These products are unregulated and contain at least 60 different chemical compounds, some of which are known to be toxic, carcinogenic and linked to cardiac disease. E-cigarette vapor is not just water vapor. E-cigarettes have not been proven safe—especially for young people. Exposure to nicotine during adolescence can negatively impact brain development and cognition and can serve as a gateway to conventional tobacco use. E-cigarette use is also associated with an increased risk of heart attack, heart disease and stroke.

Studies show that flavored tobacco products serve as starter products for many smokers, which lead to nicotine addiction and can serve as a gateway to traditional tobacco use. According to data from 2013-2014, 4 out of 5 youth who are current tobacco users started by using a flavored product. Flavors can also alter youth perception of the dangers of tobacco products, including e-cigarettes (which come in over 15,000 flavors), which results in increased use of these products.

E-cigarettes are not an FDA-approved tobacco cessation product. Although a recent study published in the New England Journal of Medicine found that e-cigarettes are more effective in smoking cessation than nicotine-replacement therapy, the results are not generalizable. The study was conducted in the United Kingdom with different e-cigarette products than those offered in the U.S., and the treatment included intensive behavioral support. In addition, it is difficult to assign a standard risk-reduction label to all e-cigarette products because they are not currently regulated, and the array of available e-cigarette products and technologies can vary so much. The long-term health effects of e-cigarette use are still not known, and the study did not address the dangers of nicotine addiction. At the conclusion of the study, 80 percent of those in the e-cigarette treatment group were still using e-cigarettes, compared with 9 percent of those in the nicotine-replacement group still using nicotine replacement. In the U.S., more than half of all e-cigarette users aged 25 and older are also current cigarette smokers.

Respiratory Health Association is committed to taking action to reduce the toll of all tobacco products, including e-cigarettes, on our communities, including:

  • Raising the minimum legal sales age of tobacco products, including e-cigarettes and vaping products, from 18 to 21
  • Adding e-cigarettes to existing smoke-free laws
  • Clarifying definitions of tobacco to include e-cigarette and vaping products
  • Licensing tobacco and e-cigarette retailers
  • Restricting the sales of flavored tobacco and vape products
  • Raising the tax on e-cigarettes and vaping products