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BIRMINGHAM (March 16, 2016) – Children’s of Alabama and the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) Department of Pediatrics recently received a grant from the Alabama Department of Public Health (ADPH) with the goal of protecting Alabama youth from secondhand smoke exposure, tobacco use and initiation, with a particular focus on electronic cigarettes.
The $80,000 grant is from ADPH’s Tobacco Prevention and Control Department and will be utilized to collect data on youth tobacco use in the Birmingham metro area. Data will to be used to promote policies that protect youth from tobacco use and tobacco smoke exposure. The grant will also provide education to middle and high school students in the Birmingham City Schools and other area schools on the health risks of tobacco use and tobacco smoke exposure.
According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), tobacco use in Alabama is higher than the national average with one in every four Alabama high school students a current tobacco user. Tobacco use and tobacco smoke remain the leading cause of preventable death and disease in the United States, killing almost half a million Americans each year. Youth are particularly vulnerable to secondhand smoke which causes and worsens many childhood illnesses including:
Pregnant mothers who smoke or are exposed to smoke have a greater risk of having a baby born prematurely with low birthweight and immature lungs as well as congenital defects such as cleft lip and palate.
Another focus of the grant is education on the health harms of electronic cigarettes. Electronic cigarette use has skyrocketed among youth, and 2.4 million students in the United States reported using electronic cigarettes in 2014. The CDC reports that electronic cigarettes are now the most common tobacco product used by high school students.
“As a pediatrician, I am very concerned about the potential for electronic cigarettes to addict a whole generation of youth to nicotine and tobacco,” said Susan Walley, M.D., an associate professor at UAB who treats patients at Children’s of Alabama and the author of the American Academy of Pediatrics Policy Statement on electronic cigarettes. “Studies have shown that youth who use electronic cigarettes are more likely to go on to smoke conventional cigarettes. Electronic cigarettes also pose health risks to children from the secondhand aerosol, which is not merely ’harmless water vapor,’ and is a poisoning risk from the concentrated electronic cigarette nicotine solution.”
There has been a dramatic increase in the number of calls made to Children’s Regional Poison Control Center about toxic exposures from electronic cigarettes – from just two calls in 2012 to 95 in 2015. The Center has already received 22 thus far in 2016.
Since 1911, Children’s of Alabama has provided specialized medical care for ill and injured children, offering inpatient and outpatient services throughout central Alabama. Children’s of Alabama is the state’s only free-standing medical facility and is ranked among the best pediatric medical centers in the nation by US News & World Report. Children’s provided care for youngsters from every county in Alabama, 41 other states and eight foreign countries last year, representing more than 677,000 outpatient visits and more than 15,000 inpatient admissions. With more than 2 million square feet, Children’s is the third largest pediatric medical facility in the U.S. More information is available at www.childrensal.org.