As one of the nation’s leading organizations dedicated to improving public health, the American Heart Association (AHA) has a long history of supporting lifesaving research and advocating for positive lifestyle changes. Over the course of its nearly 100-year history, the group’s advocacy work has focused on several areas, including the importance of regular exercise and a healthy diet and the dangers of tobacco. The AHA’s role in strengthening tobacco oversight led to the passage of the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act, which enhanced tobacco regulation and curbed the use of misleading tobacco advertisements.
With the rising popularity of vaping, the Association has redirected its focus in recent years to highlight the dangers that e-cigarettes and other vape products pose to public health, particularly the health of young people. As part of this work, the AHA recently launched the End the Lies Youth Vaping and Nicotine Research Initiative, a $20-million effort exploring nicotine’s effect on youth health.
The Association is also partnering with other groups to strengthen vaping laws and regulations in order to prevent underage users from obtaining nicotine products. Keep reading to get a closer look at vaping’s effect on one’s health and what the AHA is doing to prevent nicotine addiction.
Vaping and Your Health
While e-cigarettes have been marketed as a healthy alternative to traditional tobacco products, the effects of vaping on cardiovascular health are not well understood. The vapors inhaled through e-cigarettes and similar products indeed contain fewer chemicals than traditional tobacco; however, many toxins, metals, and contaminants are still present in e-cigarettes, and most vaping products still contain nicotine, which is a dangerous and highly addictive chemical.
Vape liquids also present a poisoning risk if they are ingested or absorbed through the skin, and recent cases of vaping-related lung diseases and death underscore the importance of bridging the knowledge gap between what is and is not known about vaping. That’s where the AHA’s End the Lies Initiative comes in.
As the name suggests, the End the Lies Youth Vaping and Nicotine Research Initiative is focused on advancing research into how vaping affects physical health. The initiative is aimed at several priority areas, including:
- Examining vaping’s effects on adolescent brain development and learning
- Exploring how vape product flavors and other enhancements influence addiction
- Discovering what effects nicotine and vape chemicals have on the cardiovascular system
- Establishing whether vape products are effective tools for smoking cessation
In addition, the End the Lies Initiative will direct funding toward research into youth nicotine addiction treatment. Funding will also be used to examine how legislative policies can reduce vaping among young people.
Advocating for Regulation and Oversight
Through a partnership with Kaiser Permanente and the Preventing Youth Nicotine Addiction Policy Fund, the AHA is advocating for stronger vaping laws and regulations on the local, state, and national levels. Policy efforts are focused on including e-cigarettes in smoke-free laws and restricting tobacco sales to those 21 years and older, a policy that is currently in place in 19 states and Washington, DC. Other policy priorities include raising tax rates on e-cigarettes and prohibiting vape-related marketed directed at young people.
Tackling False Industry Claims
In addition to ensuring that lawmakers do their part in the fight against nicotine addiction, the AHA is using its End the Lies Initiative to call out e-cigarette companies for their false claims and manipulative marketing tactics. These marketing tactics have contributed to a significant increase in vaping among youth. In fact, recent statistics show a steady increase in vaping among high school and middle school students since 2016. Today, it’s estimated that more than 5 million teens use vape products.
A key tool the AHA is using to tackle false industry claims is its website Quitlying.org. Launched in early 2020, the site features vaping facts versus lies, as well as other educational information. Teachers can turn to the site for a variety learning resources, including lesson plans, infographics, and fact sheets. Quitlying.org also provides links to vaping resources for parents, health professionals, and youth.
Engaging Community Members
Along with providing vaping education, Quitlying.org serves as a community engagement platform that encourages young people to raise awareness of the dangers associated with e-cigarettes. On the site, users can access memes and tips for spreading the word about vaping on social media. Users can also take action by signing a letter telling vaping companies to stop lying and encouraging members of US Congress to enact policies protecting youth.
Additionally, Quitlying.org keeps young people informed of in-person events held as part of the #QuitLying campaign. Throughout early 2020, young people across the country held activities in partnership with schools and other community organizations. Youth activists have also established school and community forums to engage their peers in the vaping conversation.
More information about the AHA’s efforts to curb nicotine use is available at www.heart.org.
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