CAVE CITY — Katie Shepard dispelled the myth that e-cigarettes produce water vapor when smoked. When, in fact, it's actually an aerosol that they produce.
Shepard, who is with Allies for Substance Abuse Prevention and also a community health educator for T.J. Regional Health, was the guest speaker Tuesday morning during the Cave City Chamber of Commerce's second quarterly breakfast.
She shared the basics of e-cigarettes, the effects their use has on human health and the marketing tactics e-cigarette companies are using to reach youths.
She began by stating that manufacturers of e-cigarettes advertise that their products are safe and healthy, and contain no nicotine.
“That's absolutely a lie,” she said.
Nicotine is a drug, a stimulant, found in tobacco products that is highly addictive.
Continued use of nicotine can affect a person's heart, causing it to beat at a faster pace; increasing instances of acid reflux; causing irritation to lungs, noses and throats, among other health problems, she said.
Some e-cigarettes contain a concentrated amount of nicotine and can equal to two to three packs of cigarettes. E-cigarettes are often easily concealed and youths have been found to use them while riding a school bus or even during class, she said.
Shepard also talked about cancer-causing chemicals.
“We know there are more than 7,000 cancer-causing chemicals,” she said. “We are not supposed to touch them or ingest them or inhale them but they are putting them in the e-cigarettes.”
E-cigarettes are easily concealed. Shepard showed photos of one e-cigarette that was hidden inside a Sharpie marker that had been confiscated in a central Kentucky county.
They also come in a variety of flavors, such as mango, kiwi or cotton candy. Offering an array of flavors for consumers to choose from is another way e-cigarette companies are appealing to youths, she said.
Shepard also talked about “cloud chasing,” which is what some who use e-cigarettes do. They try to see how creative they can be when exhaling while smoking an e-cigarette and post videos of themselves on YouTube.
Some have found a way to put other drugs in e-cigarettes, including THC, the main active ingredient in cannabis, she said.
She pointed out that those who start smoking at a young age, by the time they are 18, they are 88 percent likely to smoke as an adult.
Some who attended the breakfast weighed in on the use of e-cigarettes at the end of Shepard's talk, including Chad Wilson, a Cave City industrial hemp farmer.
Wilson's son used e-cigarettes to quit smoking.
“A lot of the stuff, the Diacetyl that comes from unmarketed stuff being imported from China and not from America. I want to make that very clear,” he said. “There is a standard of production in the United States that doesn't exist. The problem is we are allowing other countries to bring it in. My second thing is I understand we need to protect the children, but I also have to say: 'Where's the parents?'”
He continued that there are laws prohibiting youths from shopping in stores that sell e-cigarettes. He wanted to know how are the youths getting them.
Shepard agreed with everything he said, and added that school principals tell her parents are buying them, even though they cost around $50 each.
“They are buying enough of them that their kids are selling them on buses to each other,” she said.
Leigh Witty questioned the regulations regarding e-cigarettes.
Shepard replied that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration began regulating e-cigarettes in 2016, but said they can't be everywhere all the time.
Witty also asked about THC compounds that are being put in some of the e-cigarettes.
“Where are they getting that?” Witty said.
Shepard said she can't speak to that question, but said she knows it is becoming a huge problem.
Nicole Randall questioned what age when youths can legally begin to purchase e-cigarettes, and Shepard said it is 18.
“There is some legislation that they are trying to make it 21, which I think it would help if they did that, but again you've got the argument you can go to war and fight for our country so you should be able to do that,” Shepard said. “It's one of those things that we see.”
Greg Davis, a former smoker, asked if there wasn't a way to make something that wasn't as harmful as e-cigarettes. He continued that it was the habit of smoking that he was hooked on most.
Shepard pointed out it takes on average between 12 and 13 weeks to break a habit and that T.J. Samson Community Hospital has classes and support groups for those who are trying to stop smoking.
“Absolutely, it's the brain. You created a habit. You also created those nicotine receptors in your brain that you've got to feed. It doesn't stop. I talked to smokers who have been quit for six years or longer and they still want to do it. It is hard, absolutely,” she said.