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There was a 78% increase in vaping among high school students in the U.S. in 2019. (Adobe Stock)

Ohio News Connection

Deaths and hospitalizations linked to e-cigarette use made headlines in 2019, and health experts say it isn’t too late to make a New Year’s resolution to kick the habit.

In Ohio, nearly 80 cases of illnesses linked to vaping have been investigated by state health officials. And federal data show a 48% increase in vaping among middle-school kids, and a 78% increase among high-schoolers in 2019.

Zach Gerber, director of marketing and communications with the American Cancer Society in Ohio, explained the long-term effects of using e-cigarettes are still unknown.

“E-cigarettes do contain high levels of nicotine, which is addictive and can negatively impact mood, concentration and even brain development,” Gerber said.

Last week, federal officials announced a ban on the sale of fruit, candy, mint and other flavored vaping oils, but critics warn it doesn’t go far enough.

E-cigarette companies have said their products aren’t intended for kids, but for adults trying to stop smoking traditional cigarettes. However, Gerber noted e-cigarettes have not been deemed a safe and effective smoking cessation product by the FDA.

Gerber admitted quitting tobacco and nicotine products is difficult, and said support from family and friends is important. He also encourages those who want to quit to tap into resources in their local community, as well as online at cancer.org.

“No one can really achieve this alone,” he said. “Thousands of people are impacted by smoking each day and each year, and that kind of support that’s already kind of ‘gone through the ringer,’ so to speak, can be very, very beneficial to those that are struggling to quit smoking.”

Smoking cessation coaching is also available at no cost through the Ohio Tobacco Quit Line at 1-800-QUIT-NOW.

This story was produced in association with Media in the Public Interest and funded in part by the George Gund Foundation.