Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, the United States was experiencing another pandemic with our youth, a vaping pandemic.

As of Feb. 18, there were 2,807 Americans who had been hospitalized due to EVALI (E-cigarette, or Vaping, product use Associated Lung Injury).

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported cases and/or deaths from all 50 states. In 2018, it was estimated that nearly 10.8 million people in the United States were vaping.

In 2014, vaping became the most common form of tobacco use among Americans under 25 years of age. In September, the Federal Drug Administration and CDC released findings from the 2020 National Youth Tobacco Survey showing 3.6 million youth are still using e-cigarettes, and the data show an alarming increase in the number of youth who use disposable e-cigarettes.

Additionally, eight of 10 youth e-cigarette users report use of flavored products.

We have seen proof of these statistics in our own region.

The Pennsylvania Youth Survey is sponsored and conducted bi-annually by the Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency to learn about youth behaviors, attitudes and knowledge concerning alcohol, tobacco, other drugs and violence.

The results from the Cambria County data are alarming and should not be overlooked.

Vaping ranked the highest in the 30-day usage rate of e-cigarettes and other vapor products. In Cambria County, 25% of respondents indicated they had used e-cigarettes in the past 30 days, compared to 19% at the state level.

My position as a regional health educator with Adagio Health is to teach individuals and communities how to live healthier, nicotine-free lifestyles. I can offer help to any youth or adult struggling with an addiction to tobacco or vaping products.

I can provide quitting classes, trainings and (worksite, schools, multi-housing unit) policy support. We can also provide educational presentations to school administration, students, and parents.

Adagio Health partners with My Life, My Quit, which is a free and confidential service developed by National Jewish Health, the nation’s No. 1 respiratory hospital, for teens who want help quitting all forms of tobacco including vaping.

My Life, My Quit has tobacco treatment specialists who have completed extensive training on adolescent cognitive and psychosocial development from a psychologist and professor at Stanford University specializing in adolescent tobacco prevention. My Life, My Quit offers text support and a quit coach to give teens a boost while they quit, help them learn skills to cope with stress in healthy ways, and support them in quitting for good.

The Cambria County Drug Coalition has played a significant role in Adagio Health’s tobacco prevention and control initiatives. Cambria County is fortunate to have its amazing staff fighting for its residents’ wellbeing and drug-free communities. The coalition has spent countless hours helping to distribute My Life, My Quit materials; they are on the front lines helping to lead the initiative to end youth vaping.

A new study led by researchers at the Stanford University School of Medicine has linked vaping to a substantially increased risk of COVID-19 among teenagers and young adults.

Among young people who were tested for COVID-19, the research found that those who vaped were five to seven times more likely to be infected than those who did not use e-cigarettes.

“Teens and young adults need to know that if you use e-cigarettes, you are likely at immediate risk of COVID-19 because you are damaging your lungs,” said the study’s senior author, Bonnie Halpern-Felsher, PhD, professor of pediatrics.

Research has shown that vaping can cause irreversible damage and weaken the immune system, making those individuals more vulnerable to viruses. If you are struggling with a nicotine addiction, we are here to help. We are offering virtual smoking cessation programs to keep you safe from COVID-19 concerns.

We can set you up with free NRT, such as gum or patches, to make your quit journey as smooth as possible.

The month of November is “Lung Cancer Awareness Month” and the “Great American Smoke Out.” The American Cancer Society sponsors the Great American Smoke Out on the third Thursday of November, challenging smokers to give up cigarettes for 24 hours.

If you or a loved one smokes cigarettes, consider joining the movement and take the first step toward quitting cigarettes forever.

Though smoking rates have dropped, almost 38 million Americans still smoke tobacco, and about half of all smokers will encounter smoking related deaths.

Each year, more than 480,000 people in the United States die from a smoking-related illness, meaning smoking causes one out of five deaths in the U.S. alone.

There is no time like the present to kick bad habits.

This is a perfect time to start thinking about a healthier you.

For help quitting smoking or vaping, contact me at 443-605-8018 or dmihalcik@adagiohealth.org.

Diana Mihalcik is the regional health educator with Adagio Health, working in tobacco prevention and control in both Cambria and Somerset counties. She is a certified tobacco treatment specialist and smoking cessation counselor living in Cambria County.

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