Concerns about vaping have been all over the news, and local health officials want to clear the air with some community conversation.

At 6 p.m. Oct. 22 the Lincoln Trail District Health Department, with support from Elizabethtown Mayor Jeff Gregory, the Elizabethtown Independent School District, Hardin County Schools and Hardin Memorial Health, will lead a discussion on how electronic cigarettes affect health, how kids are using them, and the impact on the community.

The event is at Pritchard Community Center in Elizabethtown.

Lincoln Trail District Health Department health promotion manager and public information officer Terrie Burgan said parents, educators, community leaders and any other adults who are connected to youth and young adults are invited to attend.

The panel is comprised of Dr. John Godfrey M.D. of Hardin Memorial Health, Harm Reduction Specialist Melissa D. Phillips of Lincoln Trail District Health Department and Youth Prevention Specialist Monica Mundy of Kentucky Tobacco Prevention and Cessation.

“Scientists are still learning about the long-term health effects of electronic cigarettes,” Burgan said in an email. “What we do know is electronic cigarettes are unsafe. E-cigarette aerosol is not harmless water vapor. The device can contain ultrafine particles, cancer causing chemicals, heavy metals such as nickel, tin and lead and nicotine.”

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, as of Thursday, there were 1,299 lung injury cases linked to vaping and 26 deaths.

Burgan said nicotine can harm the developing adolescent brain, noting the brain keeps developing until about age 25.

“Nicotine harms the part of the young brain that controls attention, learning, mood and impulse control,” she said.

Burgan also stated electronic cigarettes can be harmful to the lungs long-term. However, she said the recent pulmonary illnesses related to electronic cigarette use in media reports seem to indicate harmful short-term effects can occur as well.

As of Oct. 4, Burgan said there have been 28 potential cases of pulmonary illnesses investigated in Kentucky. The 1,299 cases in the U.S. associated with electronic cigarette and vaping products are in 49 states, the District of Columbia and one U.S. territory.

Burgan said the purpose of the forum is to update the community on what is happening related to the pulmonary illnesses, but also make adults aware of how electronic cigarettes can be hiding in plain sight.

“There are electronic cigarettes that look like key fobs, a Fitbit or Apple Watch. There are various clothing that can be purchased (vape wear) that has the device built in, so the teen can be vaping and the adult never realize it,” Burgan said. “It is our goal to raise awareness and educate the public with the most recent and accurate information regarding electronic cigarette use.”

Mary Alford can be reached at 270-505-1741 or malford@thenewsenterprise.com.

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