ENDS Update

In 2018, Illinois PTA Convention delegates passed a resolution on Electronic Nicotine Delivery Systems (ENDS). The resolution followed years of tracking the data and science surrounding ENDS use by youth, and Illinois PTA continues to keep its members informed about new developments. Once again, e-cigarettes are in the news, with reports of pulmonary illnesses and even deaths, including one here in Illinois.

The investigations into the causes of the illnesses and deaths are ongoing, with THC (the active ingredient in marijuana) vaping juice and vitamin E acetate found in many of those THC cartridges sampled being one early area of focus. However, a recent study in the journal Radiologyindicates that vaping itself can damage lungs.

The study by researchers at the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania performed MRI exams on 31 healthy, non-smoking adults between 18 and 35 before and after taking 16 three-second puffs on an e-cigarette containing only “vaping juice,” a mixture of water, glycerol, and propylene glycol, the latter two being used in vaping cartridges to keep additional chemicals such as nicotine or flavorings dissolved in the cartridge.

The results of the study showed that even in non-smoking, first-time vapers with no nicotine in the cartridge, the use of an e-cigarette resulted in poorer circulation, stiffer arteries, and less oxygen in the blood. As the study’s principal investigator, Felix Wehrli, put it, “The results of our study defeat the notion that e-cigarette vaping is harmless.” Although both chemicals used in the study, glycerol and ethylene glycol, are considered safe to eat, they may not be safe to inhale.

Photo © 2016 by Mylesclark96 under Creative Commons license.

News from National Convention—Resolutions

At the 2019 National PTA Convention last week in Columbus, OH, delegates adopted one new resolution and amended two other existing resolutions. The first, dealing with financial literacy, came from Illinois PTA. The other two dealt with energy drinks and lead. The financial literacy and lead resolutions both had minor amendments approved by the delegates, and the amended language is included below. The links to the resolutions in this post are to the proposed language, and the amended language should be up on theNational PTA resolutions pagein the next few weeks.

Resolution on Financial Literacy

This resolution is an updated version of the resolution passed at the 2017 Illinois PTA Convention. Financial literacy remains a critically underdeveloped skill for our children, and this resolution broadens the reach of the original Illinois PTA resolution to a national scope. The amendment from the delegates added that PTAs advocate for inclusion of financial literacy in state standards as well as in curriculum. The resolved clauses as adopted by the convention delegates are:

  • That the National PTA and its constituent associations encourage dissemination of information, and training opportunities to families and students in financial planning and budget balancing techniques to foster financial literacy
  • That the National PTA and its constituent associations advocate to address the need for financial literacy education and share concerns regarding financial literacy education provisions with appropriate decision-makers at the federal, state and local levels
  • That the National PTA encourage its constituent associations to advocate at the state and local levels for financial literacy to be included in standards and curriculum
  • That the National PTA work with the Financial Literacy and Education Commission and the United States Department of Education to ensure that all students are provided financial literacy education

Resolution on Dangers of Alcoholic and Non-Alcoholic Energy Drinks

Adopted at the 2009 National PTA Convention, the original resolution addressed only alcoholic energy drinks. The amendments adopted at this year’s convention expand that coverage to non-alcoholic energy drinks, as the high levels of caffeine and other stimulants in non-alcoholic energy drinks have also resulted in the deaths of children. This amendment also brings the National PTA resolution in line with the 2013 Illinois PTA Resolution on Energy Drinksby adding a resolved clause that supports a ban on selling all kinds of energy drinks at K-12 schools. The amended and new resolved clauses are:

  • That National PTA and its constituent associations educate parents, students, administrators, teachers and community members about the dangers of consuming alcoholic and non-alcoholic energy drinks
  • That National PTA and its constituent associations seek legislation requiring that alcoholic energy drink manufacturers provide prominent alcohol content percentage on the label, as well as health and safety warnings indicating the dangers of combining alcohol with caffeinated beverages
  • That National PTA and its constituent associations urge decision makers to ban the sale of all kinds of energy drinks in all K-12 schools

Resolution on Lead Poisoning Prevention

While the resolution passed at this year’s convention on lead poisoning prevention was presented as an amendment, it is in fact a completely new resolution, since the entire text of the existing resolution was struck, new resolution text was inserted, and the title was amended to add “Prevention.” The original language passed at the 1976 National PTA Convention focused on increasing awareness of lead poisoning and supporting the recently passed legislation that eliminated lead from gasoline and limited its use in other products.

Today, the effects of lead poisoning are well known and the dangers for our children stem from lead sources that were not addressed in the previous federal legislation. These sources, such as lead pipes and solder that leach lead into drinking water are now among the most common ways that children are exposed lead. Concern over lead in school drinking water resulted in the passage of SB550 in 2017 here in Illinois. The National PTA Convention delegates amended the third resolved clause to include advocacy for lead testing as well as remediation. The resolved clauses as amended are:

  • That the National PTA and its constituent associations support the removal of all sources of lead from use, including its complete removal of lead from all paints, building materials, and consumer products
  • That the National PTA and its constituent associations encourage the safe and responsible removal of lead from existing uses, including lead in paints, plumbing, and in other building materials
  • That the National PTA and its constituent associations advocate for lead testing and the remediation of lead contaminated soils and water
  • That the National PTA and its constituent associations promote advocacy around policy changes to prevent lead poisoning

E-Cigarette Update

When Illinois PTA first shared information about e-cigarette use among adolescents in 2014, we noted that use had more than doubled from 3.3% to 6.8% from 2011 to 2012. Today, the use of e-cigarettes or Electronic Nicotine Delivery Systems (ENDS) has risen to nearly 15% in 2018. The growth in the use of ENDS comes at a time when adolescents are smoking traditional tobacco products and using smokeless tobacco at significantly lower rates than in recent years. This growth was one of the contributing factors to Illinois PTA’s adoption of a Resolution on Electronic Nicotine Delivery Systems (ENDS) at the 2018 Illinois PTA Convention.

One of the reasons for this increase is that ENDS are presented as safer than traditional cigarettes. This is true, but as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) notes, cigarettes are extraordinarily dangerous products that kill approximately half of the people who use them regularly. And while ENDS are suggested as having a potential benefit for adults looking to quit smoking cigarettes, they are not considered safe for youth, young adults, pregnant women, or adults who do not currently use tobacco products.

Another reason for increased use is believed to be Juul, a brand of ENDS that looks similar to a USB flash drive that has so dominated the market that vaping is now often referred to as “Juuling” among youth. The pods used in Juul products have come in “kid-appealing” flavors like candy and fruit in the past, and surveys have shown these flavors are the primary reason for the use of ENDS among youth. As the Food and Drug Administration moved to regulate ENDS use, Juul announced it was suspending in-store sales of such flavors. Education Week created a video aimed at teachers (but also useful for parents) on how to detect Juul use in the classroom.

 

The health concerns with ENDS starts with nicotine, a highly addictive chemical present in most ENDS liquid pods that are inserted into the ENDS and vaporized. Nicotine has been shown to harm adolescent brain development, and its concentration in ENDS pods is often the equivalent to the nicotine in one or two packs of cigarettes. Nicotine in high concentrations is toxic, and as ENDS use has increased, so has the rate of nicotine poisonings in the US, increasing from only 269 in 2011 to 3,137 in 2018.

But nicotine is not the only chemical of concern in the ENDS vapor that is inhaled and exhaled. Youth often cite ENDS as being “safe” and the vapor inhaled as only “water,” but other substances that have been found in ENDS vapor include heavy metals such as nickel, tin, and lead; ultrafine particles; carcinogens; and flavoring such as diacetyl, a chemical linked to serious lung disease. While the number of harmful chemicals in ENDS vapor is fewer than those in cigarette smoke, ENDS are by no means safe for use.

Resources for Families

Photo © 2016 by Mylesclark96under Creative Commons license.

Advocacy Day 2019—A Challenging and Rewarding Day

Illinois PTA hosted is Advocacy Day in Springfield last Wednesday, February 6th. Though the weather did not cooperate, making travel difficult or impossible for some PTA advocates, Illinois PTA was still able to visit with every legislator’s staff and meet with a few legislators as well. A few of our advocates who had ducked in to see the House in session just before lunch ran into our new governor, JB Pritzker! If you couldn’t make it, you can still contact your legislators about our advocacy issues through our latest Call to Action.

Our three primary advocacy topics this Advocacy Day were:

School Funding

Illinois’s new Evidence-Based Funding (EBF) model provides an equitable way of distributing state funding to schools by determining what research and data shows to be the cost of educating a student coupled with a school district’s ability to meet that cost through local property taxes. What that model also shows is that 83% of Illinois school districts are below 90% of their adequate funding level, and that bringing every district to their full adequate level of funding would cost an additional $7.37 billion. While the General Assembly has committed to an additional $350 million per year for ten years, the Center for Tax and Budget Accountability estimates that at that rate it will take 31 years to reach full adequate funding. Illinois PTA does not believe that it is in our children’s or our state’s best interest to not fully fund schools until 2050.

Given the financial difficulties faced by the state, one cannot talk about additional spending without being willing to talk about revenue, and that was the other part of Illinois PTA’s focus on school funding during Advocacy Day. We spoke in favor of a constitutional amendment that would allow for a graduated income tax, a position of our legislative platform for years. We also would support a potential increase in taxes on services to bring us in line with our neighboring states. Finally, we spoke in favor of eliminating the scholarship fund inserted into the EBF bill at the last minute that diverts up to $75 million in public funds for private school vouchers with no clear accountability on how those funds are being handled.

Juvenile Justice

In 2017, Illinois PTA released a report on young adults involved in the justice system, and among the recommendations adopted by the convention delegates from that report was advocating for changes in how young adults ages 18 to 24 are handled by the justice system. That report continues to generate national interest, most recently in a new report by the Justice Lab at Columbia University.

Based on our position on this issue, Illinois PTA spoke with legislators in favor of SB 239 and HB 1465, companion bills just introduced prior to Advocacy Day that would raise the age of juvenile court jurisdiction for misdemeanors from 18 to 21 through a phased in process. We also supported providing counsel to all alleged juvenile offenders throughout their involvement in the justice system, reducing the disproportionate representation of minorities in the juvenile justice system, and assuring that juvenile court jurisdiction is based on age by eliminating automatic transfers to adult court.

Environmental Resolutions

Shortly after taking office, Governor Pritzker signed an executive order confirming that Illinois will abide by the Paris Accord on Climate Change. Based on our resolution on climate change, Illinois PTA asked legislators to make Governor Pritzker’s decision a reality by enacting legislation that would support renewable energy resources and regulate activities that contribute to the adverse effects of climate change. Illinois PTA also spoke out in favor of regulations that would prevent adverse environmental effects from fracking based on our resolution on hydraulic fracturing.