A matter of Vape and Death: Newest Epidemic Leaves 35 Dead and Over 1500 Hospitalized

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Michael DeLeon

Michael DeLeon, Founder and CEO of Steered Straight, is on a mission to help kids avoid vaping and other drugs

Vaping is a national epidemic that’s hitting young teens the hardest. This issue has dominated the news with stories of mysterious illness, deaths and hospitalizations nationwide. Michael DeLeon, the number one booked school speaker in the U.S. and expert on drug issues, is determined to set the record straight.

(Murfreesboro, TN)—October 30, 2019 Vaping has become a cross-country epidemic, with over 1,500 reported counts of vape-related illnesses and 34 vape-induced deaths[1]. The cruel tragedy of this epidemic is that most of the victims of vaping related illnesses involve young adults around age 23 and most of the vaping related deaths are adults around age 45–but most of the long-term illnesses and death will manifest in children under 18 years old. In a recent federal survey, researchers found that more than 25 percent of U.S. high school students have used an e-cigarette in the past 30 days[2]. Michael DeLeon, the number one booked school presenter in America on drug related issues and Founder/President of Steered Straight, has surveyed more than 15,000 middle and high school students already this school year and has found that number is more than double.

When companies like Juul began marketing to pre-adolescents and teens with misleading messages pertaining to the safety of vaping, dependency and ingredients, their revenue spiked and sent the CDC, parents and teachers into a panic. “These companies are marketing these products to children and it’s absolutely unacceptable. We need to speak up and put an end to this dangerous fad,” said DeLeon.

Unfortunately, the anti-tobacco and anti-smoking awareness efforts are far less abundant than e-cigs and tobacco campaigns. In an effort to stop the vaping giant Juul from marketing to children, the Center for Environmental Health recently released a legally binding agreement preventing Juul from:

  • Advertising at sporting events or concerts that allow people under the age 21.
  • Appearing at schools.
  • Using models in their ads that are under the age of 28[3].

Although these are promising steps in the right direction, a new product, Snus, was recently cleared by the FDA to be marketed with the verbiage “instead of cigarettes puts you at a lower risk of mouth cancer, heart disease, lung cancer, stroke, emphysema, and chronic bronchitis[4].” Could this be the second wave of the youth smoking epidemic?

DeLeon believes so. “Howeverm people want to look at SNUS—either as an alternative to smoking or as an origination to nicotine use–it’s still carcinogenic to humans. My main focus is on helping kids and young adults steer clear of nicotine. The more we paint a reduced perception of harm, the more we increase adolescent use of these products.”

The FDA wants to make a clear distinction that the modified risk claim was approved–snus are not FDA approved. But DeLeon said the distinction may get lost in the advertising copy.

“I saw the vaping epidemic happen years before it did—and snus could be the next big thing with this modified messaging. We need to educate kids now before any more deaths happen in this country from nicotine,” said DeLeon.

In addition to snus, the bans on e-cigarette flavors in various states across the country and done voluntarily to some extent by the industry leader, JUUL, will not help stem youth use. In fact, it will increase faster than ever. There are countless companies marketing and selling counterfeit flavors all over this country and online. There is a complete industry selling flavors separately which won’t fall under bans. There is a burgeoning black market that is stepping up faster than ever since the scattered bans. The worst increase of availability will come from the marijuana industry. This is a huge market that is not regulated at all by our federal government.

DeLeon delivers a hard-hitting educational program, “Vaping Me Crazy,” to youth, families, and communities across the country. Currently, Michael and his team are focusing his awareness efforts on educating parents and teachers.

“We are in the worst public social health crisis America has ever seen,” DeLeon notes.With vaping/JUULing and a culture that literally grew up with pills marketed as the solution for every human ailment, the threat to our youth is greater than ever.”


About Michael DeLeon

Michael DeLeon has become the #1 School Presenter in America, visiting 616 schools to date in 40 states in 2018 alone. Michael is the leading subject matter expert on vaping and current youth drug trends. He is the Founder and CEO of Steered Straight, a non-profit organization providing educational programs and materials to youth, families, and communities across the country and around the world. He is a thought leader in the addiction and substance abuse community and is an advocate for social and public health change, parent/teacher education, and is spearheading multiple anti-vape campaigns and awareness programs. Visit https://www.steeredstraight.org/

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[1] “Outbreak of Lung Injury Associated with E-Cigarette Use, or Vaping.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 25 Oct. 2019.

[2] Aubrey, Allison. “Juul Suspends Sales of Flavored Vapes And Signs Settlement To Stop Marketing To Youth.” NPR, NPR, 17 Oct. 2019

[3] Ibid.

[4] Christensen, Jen. “Smokeless Tobacco Company Can Advertise Snus as Less Risky than Cigarettes, FDA Says.” CNN, Cable News Network, 22 Oct. 2019

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