The vaping crisis impacting our youth is growing each year. New studies from the American Heart Association show that 1 in 4 high school students is vaping and we know that the number of teen e-cigarette usage has doubled nationally over the past year. To combat the impact, the Association has launched its #QuitLying campaign, calling Big Vape to task with creating this epidemic. As part of the annual Executive Leadership Breakfast event for the Lynchburg Heart Walk, a powerful teen vaping panel, made up of volunteer leadership, was added to address the issue and inform attendees of how the vaping crisis is impacting people directly in the Lynchburg region.
Panelists included Dr. David Truitte – Cardiologist, Centra Lynchburg Hospitals, Dr. Jeffrey Garrett – Principal, EC Glass High School, and Dr. Kerry Gateley – Health Director, Lynchburg Health Department. Centra Lynchburg Hospitals is the Signature Sponsor of the Lynchburg Heart Walk and the organization was excited to be a part of the panel and to see it come to fruition in the region. The trio of panelists enlightened the audience to the very real issues they have seen brought about by the teen vaping crisis. During the panel they addressed many of the myths about e-cigarettes, including that they are safe.
“One of the major impacts that we have seen is E-Cigarette Vaping Associated Lung Injury (EVALI),” said Dr. Kerry Gateley. “There have been 49 deaths associated with it nationally, including one right here in my jurisdiction.”
“I think one of our biggest challenges is getting teachers and staff to be on the look for things considered out of the ordinary when we think of e-cigarettes,” said Dr. Jeffrey Garrett, when asked about the issues teachers are facing in the classrooms with vaping. “There are devices that look like a mouse, a flash drive, even watches that they can use to vape.”
“I think we will find that a very small group of people effectively using them for smoking cessation,” said Dr. David Truitte. “The reality is there are many other ways to successfully quit smoking, from behavioral modification to medications, so vaping being a safe means to quit is not a valid argument.”
The attendees were very appreciative of this panel as, for many, it was their first real look at the teen vaping crisis. Many had not seen what e-cigarette devices look like and most had no idea how quickly they were getting into the region.
Jay Burks, VP & COO of Centra Lynchburg Hospitals and this year’s Executive Chair, stated: “The Leadership Breakfast was a great way to kick-off our planning for the 2020 American Heart Association Lynchburg Heart Walk, as well as draw attention to critical community health issues. Centra Health is proud to serve as the Signature Sponsor for the Heart Walk. One of our strategic aims is building healthier communities, and we view collaborations with the American Heart Association and community partners as an important way to advance that goal.”
“Our goal after today with launching this to the community is that more people will understand the impact of vaping,” said Ashley Ege, Senior Director for Greater Virginia for the American Heart Association.
The event was also covered by three area TV stations, showing that this crisis is gaining attention across the nation.
Many communities will be hosting similar panels throughout the upcoming months. Lynchburg’s event was considered a major success and a great template as to how we can have these health discussions with the community.
Links to the TV stories can be found here:
Kevin is the Communications Director for West Virginia and Western Virginia. When not in the office, Kevin is an active performer with the State 35 Comedy Troupe and is the founding member of the Ghostbusters – WV Division fundraising team. He has been with the organization since 2005.