County combats youth vaping, tobacco use

Health official open to ideas for how to safeguard young people’s well-being

Tabatha Stewart
Special to Colorado Community Media
Posted 2/4/19

Nearly one in five (17 percent) of adults in Elbert County smoke cigarettes, according to the Tri-County Health Department. Nine out of ten smokers say they started smoking before the age of 18. And …

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County combats youth vaping, tobacco use

Health official open to ideas for how to safeguard young people’s well-being

Posted

Nearly one in five (17 percent) of adults in Elbert County smoke cigarettes, according to the Tri-County Health Department. Nine out of ten smokers say they started smoking before the age of 18. And in Colorado’s Health Statistics Region 5, which includes Elbert County, nearly half (49 percent) of high school students report having tried electronic vapor products.

Ninety percent of adults who smoke cigarettes started as children or teens, according to Tri-County Health, which partners with Elbert County on some health initiatives.

Elbert County officials want to prevent students who try tobacco products and vape products from becoming adults who use them daily, and want community members to know they have dedicated funding and resources to help thwart the growing use among teens.

“Basically, we have grant funding coming from the state of Colorado, generated from the sale of tobacco products,” said Rachel Larsen, Elbert county public health and environment administrator. “Working within the constraints of the grant funding, in Elbert County we are focusing on youth tobacco prevention programs.”

Colorado receives funding and technical support from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, but, according to Larsen, Elbert County citizens have not taken full advantage of the resources.

“So far we’ve had two districts who have had a public speaker come in and do a presentation for schools,” said Larsen.“The biggest issues I feel we’re facing with this is we have these dollars available, and the school districts are receptive, but they’re very limited on time.”

Resources are available for groups within the county, including church groups, youth groups, school groups, civic groups and individuals. Larsen’s department supplies handouts, presentations at schools, and free schwag for students. They also offer programs such as Teens Against Tobacco Use (TATU) and Not on Tobacco Colorado (NOTCO).

“In middle school kids are starting to experiment with products, and in high school may already be using them regularly,” said Larsen. “We have some programs that are based on making lifestyle choices, and how to get kids to make good decisions.”

Teens may have a tough time realizing the harm tobacco products and similar products can cause, according to Larsen, because manufacturers make them look fun and harmless.

“Products used for vaping and e-cigarettes are made in flavors that are fruity or sweet,” said Larsen. “They specifically target the youth, with logos and colors. They can resemble different sorts of candy and things of that nature.”

Larsen encourages anyone who is interested or has ideas for a youth prevention program to contact her at rachel.larsen@elbertcounty-co.gov.

“I will put them in touch with correct programs, whatever is covered by funding,” said Larsen.

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