Pittsboro police ramping up enforcement against youth tobacco, nicotine use

PITTSBORO, Ind. – An Indiana police department is taking a stand against youth use of nicotine and tobacco products. It follows the release of information from the CDC showing an increase in youth tobacco use.

The report stated nearly 5 million middle and high school students used tobacco products in 2018, up from 3.6 million in 2017.

"The kids need to learn that this isn't going to be tolerated," Pittsboro Police Officer Teri Crouch-Siple said. "We want to make sure that these kids get it through their head that they're making ill decision for their health, not only against the law."

So police said they're ramping up enforcement against teens using tobacco and nicotine products, including electronic cigarettes. Officer Crouch-Siple said when they see someone under 18 years old using those products, they'll be subject to a citation, including a $160 fine.

The CDC says the increase is driven by a surge in electronic cigarette use. The report says 1.5 million more youth used electronic cigarettes in 2018 compared to 2017. There was no change in the use of other tobacco products.

"These aren't innocent substances, that you're inhaling something addictive and harmful and even if it tastes pretty sweet going down," Dr. Nadia Krupp, a pulmonologist at Riley Children's Health and the director of the Riley Asthma Program said.

She said the amount of nicotine in one pack of traditional cigarettes is about one pod worth of electronic liquid.  She said a lot of young people think what they're using is harmless, but said that's not the case.

"The biggest risk is the fact that it's addictive and the fact that when young people start using addictive substances including nicotine they're more likely to have trouble quitting those when they're in adulthood," Dr. Krupp said.

So she wishes more people asked more questions about it.

"It's not just high schoolers that are using these, middle school and even some elementary school kids are using these products if they can get their hands on them, so it's not really too young to start talking to your kids about it," she said.

FDA Commission Scott Gottlieb released a statement following the report, stating he feared the youth trends will continue this year forcing them to make "tough decisions about the regulatory status of e-cigarettes."

He states in part:

"The signs that we’re seeing are not encouraging. They point to continued growth in youth use of these products. No child should be using any tobacco or nicotine-containing product. We’ll continue to take steps to try to investigate the root causes of this spike in youth e-cigarette use and arrest the momentum of these trends, in particular, by ensuring these products are sold in ways that make them less accessible and appealing to youth. But, if these youth use trends continue, we’ll be forced to consider regulatory steps that could constrain or even foreclose the opportunities for currently addicted adult smokers to have the same level of access to these products that they now enjoy."

Meanwhile, police in Pittsboro hope kids there are kept on a healthy path.

"You start today with one smart choice and you're gonna lead to smarter choices down the road," Officer Crouch-Siple said.

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