New retailer checks aim to curb vaping among students

MUSKEGON, Mich. (WOOD) — Electronic cigarettes are becoming extremely popular among students across the country despite containing nicotine, a highly addictive drug.

Muskegon County is rolling out a new routine to stop the growing trend, which county health officials told 24 Hour News 8 is raising serious health concerns.

“We don’t know enough yet on what the long-term consequences are going to be,” said Missy Gallegos, a public health educator at the Muskegon County Department of Public Health.

Many people are familiar with undercover compliance checks done by authorities to make sure minors aren’t purchasing alcohol or tobacco. On Thursday, Muskegon County will begin compliance checks at retailers selling vapor products. This comes after a county ordinance was passed in 2015.

“We don’t want to reach into your life and parent your children,” Muskegon County Sheriff Lt. Shane Brown said. “We simply want to give them the best start they can get.”

Between 2015 and 2016, the number of students using e-cigarettes increased 900 percent nationally, according to Gallegos.

“Electronic cigarette(s) can be called a vape pen or a hookah pen, but they all have one thing in common. They all deliver nicotine and we all know that nicotine is very addicting,” she told 24 Hour News 8.

She said that vapor products have edged out cigarettes in popularity among students. Nearly 18 percent of students in Muskegon County high schools reported using e-cigarettes during the 2015-2016 school year. In comparison, 7 percent reported using tobacco cigarettes.

The other issue raising questions with county health officials and the Food and Drug Administration focuses on the ingredients used in vapor liquid. Gallegos said ingredients in some e-cigs range from formaldehyde to arsenic to lead. Formaldehyde is used to preserve bodies, while arsenic is used in bug sprays.

“We want (minors) to be healthy, we want them to be informed, we want them to do the best they can do, and we find the retailers want the same thing,” the sheriff said.