The NYTS (National Youth Tobacco Survey) is probably the most accepted way of figuring out which tobacco-based products teenagers are consuming. Breaking the time-honored tradition, the CDC (the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) researchers opted to go through the trash of high schoolers, instead.
Researchers supervised a “garbology” study of twelve public high schools in California from July 2018 to April this year, according to the field notes, which were published by the CDC on Thursday. They looked for discarded e-cigarettes, tobacco-based cigarettes, marijuana products in the parking lots and boundaries of the schools in a bid to find out what products kids are using, and what are they throwing away.
Researchers found nearly 170 e-cigarette waste products, mostly at upper-class high schools. The waste products primarily comprised of Juul-branded nicotine pods and caps, or other branded products that work in Juul vaporizers.
About 99% of the verifiable caps indicated flavors such as mango, mint, and even tobacco. Vapers, particularly young adults are attracted to flavored tobacco products, which compelled the Trump administration, as well as several states to implements bans on flavored e-cigarettes, and possibly even pull the product completely from the market. It can be recalled that Juul willingly discontinued selling all except tobacco, mint and menthol flavors in several stores.
The researchers’ findings may underrate the e-cigarette use in high schools, given that it is near impossible to prove that the products they found were actually thrown by high school students). Data from the latest NYTS, which was released about six months after the study ended, indicated that, at a time when 6% or less high school students smoke, nearly 27.5% have used e-cigarette recently. The upsurge in teen vaping is particularly worrisome due to the outbreak of vaping-related lung illnesses, which have been linked to THC based products.
Aside from that, researchers found 620 cigarette butts across schools. About 40% of identifiable cigarette butts were menthol-flavored, along with fourteen cannabis waste products including vape pens, cartridges, and packaging. They also found 87 pieces of cigarillos or cigars from the trash at lower-income schools.
In addition to shedding light on the widespread use of tobacco, and contradictory product use, which is based on income level, the finding also focuses on imminent environmental concern, as per the field notes.
Cigarette components such as lithium-ion batteries that vaporizing devices use to draws their juices from, the remaining nicotine in vaping cartridges, etc, can be harmful to children, pets and the environments. The garbology study found that quite a few young users are careless when it comes to disposing of their products.
“Measures are needed to eliminate environmental contamination from an e-cigarette, combustible tobacco product, and cannabis product waste in and around schools,” the authors state.