Deerfield hears from tobacco expert

Staff Writer
Published: 3/13/2019 6:04:49 PM

SOUTH DEERFIELD — The Municipal Tobacco Control Technical Assistance Program director visited the Board of Health to provide some education on vaping, the newest craze in youth temptation.

Donald J. Wilson explained that electronic cigarettes, or e-cigarettes, and flavored products were at one time something students simply would try to get away with during class, but many are now addicted. He spent much of his time with the health board, which also acts as the Selectboard, talking about Juul, an e-cig manufacturer particularly popular with high-schoolers.

“Our concern is that it doesn’t look like an e-cigarette. … They’re easy to disguise. A lot of kids put them in their socks. They have a very strong nicotine solution that, when used, goes to your brain faster, so there’s a faster response,” he said. “And Juul themselves say the pod, which is tiny, is the equivalent to one pack of cigarettes.”

Juul representative Theodore Kwong sent The Recorder a statement explaining the company’s business practices.

“We are committed to preventing youth access of JUUL products, and no young person or non-nicotine user should ever try JUUL. We cannot fulfill our mission to provide the world’s 1 billion adult smokers with a true alternative to combustible cigarettes if youth use continues unabated. That is why we have taken the most dramatic and aggressive steps of any other manufacturer in the industry to prevent underage use with the JUUL Labs Action Plan,” the statement reads. “We suspended the distribution of certain flavored JUULpods to traditional retail stores as of Nov. 17, 2018, strengthened the age verification of our industry leading e-commerce site, exited our U.S. Facebook and Instagram accounts, and are developing new technology to further limit youth access and use. We also increased our secret shopper program from 500 visits per month to roughly 2,000 per month, to verify that our standards are being followed by retailers.”

At his meeting with the Board of Health, Wilson handed a Juul pod, which resembles a flash drive, to board members so they could familiarize themselves with what one looks like.

Wilson explained a Juul pod can be charged on a laptop via a USB. He said breathing into the pod turns its liquid into a vapor. He said he has spoken with school librarians who have told him students have checked out a laptop solely to charge their Juuls.

Proponents of vaping say it can help smokers wean off their tobacco habit. E-cigarettes do not contain tar, but Wilson said the liquid contains some metals.

Wilson explained smokers have approached him to say they intended to use e-cigarettes to help quit tobacco and ask him for advice.

“My recommendation is, don’t pick your favorite flavor. If Boston cream pie is your favorite flavor in the world, don’t do a Boston cream pie vape, because you’ll do it the rest of your life,” he said. “We all would do this. If I had a pocket full of M&Ms all day, I would not stop. Without the flavors, it’s very boring to do this. So, that’s one of the issues.”

Health board member Carolyn Shores Ness said she has been appalled to see so many schoolchildren with Juul pods. Wilson mentioned Blu is another popular e-cigarette brand.

“We really need to do something about this,” she said.

Wilson agreed to draft some potential vaping regulations before a March 18 meeting of the Mohawk Area Public Health Coalition, which Ness co-chairs. The meeting is slated for the Franklin Regional Council of Governments in Greenfield at 4:30 p.m.

Wilson said Providence, R.I., passed an ordinance that bans e-cigarettes and tobacco (with the exceptions of mint, menthol, and wintergreen) in workplaces.

“And they got sued immediately in federal court, but Providence prevailed at the Federal Court of Appeals. The tobacco industry did not appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court and because we [Massachusetts] share the same federal court as Rhode Island, there’s a big green light for us,” he told BOH members.

Wilson said Somerville, Ashland and Needham have decided to take action against e-cigs by removing the mint-menthol-wintergreen exception and permitting e-cigarette sales solely at tobacco-only stores and vape shops. He said Somerville’s regulations go into effect April 1, while Needham’s start on July 1 and Ashland’s go into effect Jan. 1.

McDaniel said he worries that limiting sales to certain types of retail locations would drive a great deal of business to a few places.

“For me, I’d rather have none at all,” he said. “But I’m just nervous about regulating favorites in the marketplace.”

But Ness said Deerfield has no tobacco-only stores or vape shops. She also said she wants a countywide solution to this problem.

“Just anecdotally, I don’t think a lot of families are talking about this with their kids, the dangers,” she said.

Reach Domenic Poli at: dpoli@recorder.com or 413-772-0261, ext. 262.




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