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Monthly Archives: June, 2015

­Oregon’s New E-cigarette Law: More Fresh Air, Less Youth Access to Nicotine

Oregon Governor Kate Brown recently signed a new law that means inhalant delivery systems, including e-cigarettes, can no longer be used in any indoor area that is already smokefree under the Oregon Indoor Clean Air Act (ICAA), as of January 1, 2016.

The new law also helps keep nicotine out of the hands of kids by not allowing the sale of inhalant delivery systems to minors—an important step at a time when youth use of e-cigarettes is climbing dramatically in Oregon and nationally.

Use of e-cigarettes mimics conventional cigarette smoking, and e-cigarettes also contain the same addictive ingredient, nicotine. Instead of smoke from burning tobacco, e-cigarette users inhale aerosol consisting of nicotine, flavor additives and other chemicals. When users inhale from the end of an e-cigarette, a battery-operated device heats a liquid solution (e-liquid or e-juice) into an aerosol. (See image below.)

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You may be surprised at how many teens are using e-cigarettes compared to just a few years ago. Oregon saw a 150 percent increase in e-cigarette use among high school-age kids from 2011 to 2013. Nationally, e-cigarette use among high school students tripled from 2013 to 2014—from 4.5% to 13.4%, according to a recent report from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. We expect to see a similar increase in Oregon when new numbers are reported this fall.

These rising rates are troubling because, while the risks posed by e-cigarettes are still being studied and are not fully understood, we know that smokeless does not mean harmless. Preliminary testing of e-cigarettes has identified chemicals known to cause cancer and birth defects in first and secondhand e-cigarette aerosol, including the carcinogens formaldehyde and acetaldehyde.

We also know that e-cigarettes increasingly are serving as starter products for kids and teens to other tobacco products and, potentially, a lifetime of nicotine dependence. A national survey found that youth who had tried e-cigarettes were nearly twice as likely to say they would try a conventional cigarette.

In Oregon, our Oregon Healthy Teens Survey revealed that one in five 11th-graders, and one in three 8th-graders, who are currently using e-cigarettes have never tried conventional cigarettes—and therefore are being introduced to nicotine through e-cigarettes.

Not allowing the sale of e-cigarettes to kids and teens is an important step toward reducing youth access, but it’s only the first step. Tobacco products and e-cigarettes continue to appeal to young people, despite laws that prevent their sale to minors. Tobacco products and e-cigarettes are attractive to youth because of pricing strategies that lower the cost; targeted marketing; and kid-friendly fruit and candy flavors such as grape, “cherry crush” and chocolate.

Oregon’s new law, in addition to protecting kids and teens, benefits all Oregonians by addressing concerns about the contents of e-cigarette aerosol. Despite manufacturers’ claims that their products are safe, there is evidence that the aerosols produced by e-cigarettes contain carcinogens and other toxic chemicals.

By expanding Oregon’s Smokefree Workplace Law to include e-cigarettes and other inhalant delivery systems, the law protects our right to breathe fresh air that is free of these potential toxins. Oregon is now one of eight states in the country to include e-cigarettes in its Smokefree Workplace Law.

As an Oregonian, I hope you’re as proud as I am that our Legislature has taken this step to preserve our fresh air and to help prevent our young people from becoming addicted to nicotine and tobacco products.

Curious about a chronic disease topic you’d like to see covered here? Interested in writing a guest blog? Keep the conversation going by leaving a comment below.

Easing the Human Costs of Chronic Disease

They say everything in life has its price—but some costs are harder to measure than others. That’s certainly true when it comes to the costs of chronic d­isease, for individual Oregonians and for our state as a whole.

Woman-Shake-Ts-86508705We can, of course, put a number on the big dollar costs for medical treatment of chronic diseases such as asthma, arthritis, cancer, cardiovascular disease and diabetes. Take just two—heart disease and stroke—which are the most costly to Oregonians. In 2011, there were 37,601 hospitalizations related to heart disease and stroke, with an average hospital bill of nearly $71,000. The total price tag: more than $1.3 billion.

But dollars and cents aren’t nearly sufficient to measure the full toll of chronic disease. As of 2013, more than 1.7 million of our adult family members, friends, co-workers and neighbors in Oregon had one or more chronic diseases. That’s over 40 percent of all state residents. The harder-to-measure human costs of their conditions are all around:

  • the grandfather whose heart disease prevents him from taking walks in the park with his grandson
  • the neighbor who loves to sing but whose arthritis keeps her from attending church choir practice
  • the adult daughter who quits a job she loves to take care of a parent with cancer
  • the friend recently diagnosed with diabetes, scared about what the future holds

That last example is, in fact, my friend—a woman about my age (45). She has watched unchecked diabetes hobble her relatives, and she knows how bad it can get if she doesn’t manage her new condition. When she shared her diagnosis with me over coffee recently, she was worried about how she will make the changes necessary for her to live with this disease for the next 30-plus years.Couple-Hike-Ts-78620745

By definition, chronic diseases are long-lasting conditions that can be prevented and managed, but rarely cured. When they aren’t prevented or managed, they harm Oregonians in every community and diminish their opportunities to live healthy lives that contribute to the health of our state.

The good news for my friend, and for Oregon, is that there are proven methods for managing diabetes. They include the same tools that the rest of us can use to prevent diabetes and other chronic diseases in our own families and communities: Eat a healthy diet. Get more physical activity. Avoid tobacco.

Sounds simple. But if it were, Oregonians wouldn’t be facing such high costs from chronic disease. As of 2013, 79 percent of adults in our state had a risk factor for a chronic disease—such as tobacco use, physical inactivity or poor nutrition. A big reason for that high percentage is that nutritious food, places to play and be active, and smokefree air remain out of reach for too many Oregonians.

  • If you live in a community where parks and other safe places to play are a car ride away, that is a barrier to your family’s ability to get outside and enjoy the fresh air.
  • If you don’t have a full-service grocery store near your home—stocked with affordable fruits, vegetables, whole grains and dairy—that’s a barrier to eating healthy food on a daily basis.
  • If you live far from where you work, and you spend a lot of time in a car or on a bus to get there and back, that takes away from time that you otherwise could spend walking, gardening, going dancing or taking part in another physical activity.

I feel incredibly fortunate to live close enough to my work that I can bike there, on safe streets, to an office that provides a place to store my bike while I’m working. So no matter what, five days a week, I get about 45 minutes of physical activity, just making a trip that I have to make anyway to get to my job.

When we provide similar access to healthy options for more Oregonians, we reduce the costs of chronic disease to our state and to the people we share it with. We save money, but just as important, we improve the quality of our lives.

Both ways, Oregon prospers.

Curious about a chronic disease topic you’d like to see covered here? Interested in writing a guest blog? Keep the conversation going by leaving a comment below.