Outgoing FDA chief warns Weston students about vaping
WESTON — Outgoing Food and Drug Administration chief Scott Gottlieb is trying to discourage children from involved with nicotine.
Gottlieb, a Westport resident, spoke to Weston Middle School students Friday morning about the harm of nicotine in children and how it can affect their brain development.
“We’re working on a new problem — kids using e-cigarettes,” Gottlieb told students. “Nicotine is bad for you.”
Recent increases in the use of e-cigarettes have grabbed the attention of both the FDA and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
According to the CDC website, “the number of middle and high school students using e-cigarettes rose from 2.1 million in 2017 to 3.6 million in 2018 — a difference of about 1.5 million youth.”
Gottlieb explained to students what an e-cigarette is made of: a battery-powered device that uses an “e-liquid” that usually contains chemicals such as nicotine, as well as flavorings, propylene, glycol, and vegetable glycerin.
These devices come in many shapes that look like cigarettes, cigars, pipes, or even pens and USB flash drives. Common brands known are JUUL, Vuse, Blu, and NJOY.
Current companies in the e-cigarette market tend to target youth with are targeting youth with e-liquid that is packaged like things that children use most often — juice boxes, candy containers, whipped cream, and even some look like medicine bottles, Gottlieb said. The FDA however, was able to get some of these products off the market, and have bene working to get even more off the shelves and away from children.
“We have even teamed up with Scholastic to get involved with getting the word out to kids, and over 700,000 teachers have been helping as well,” Gottlieb said.
He also said commercials will be airing this summer to help children understand the dangers and health concerns of vaping and nicotine.
Gottlieb’s visit to Weston youth came the same week he announced he’d be resigning as FDA chief, due to his long commute from his home in Westport to Washington.
“I want to spend more time with my family,” Gottlieb said. “It was a very difficult decision to make.” His wife, Allyson and his daughters, 9-year-old twins and a 5-year-old were also in attendance at the presentation.
However, his resignation won’t be official until next month, so he said he’ll be using that time to educate children on the dangers of vaping.
Following the presentation, Weston students had the opportunity to ask Gottlieb questions.
“Our students asked good questions about how the FDA is working to keep these products out of the hands of young people,” Principal Dan Doak said.
Doak noted he was grateful Gottlieb took time out of his busy schedule to share with the students the dangers of vaping and e-cigarettes.
Weston Public Schools and other districts have taken a firm stand in recent years on the use of tobacco, alcohol and drugs on school property.
Board of Education policy #5131.6, for example, prohibits the use of alcohol, drugs and tobacco, which includes cigarettes, e-cigarettes and vapors. The possession, transmission or use of tobacco or other illegal substances are forbidden, and students that violate this policy may be suspended or expelled, and will be referred to the police, the policy reads.
“Dr. Gottlieb’s presentation was informative, and I hope that his message will prevent students from using tobacco products,” Doak said.