ST. GEORGE — Earlier this month, Utah Republican Rep. Chris Stewart joined two other members of Congress to reintroduce a bipartisan bill aimed at providing more accurate information regarding electronic cigarette use.
Presently, electronic health records, or EHRs, allow doctors to record whether a patient uses cigarettes or cigars, yet have no options for e-cigarette or other smoking variants, according to a press release from Stewart’s office.
The bill, called the Accurate Reporting of Smoking Variants Act, would require the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology to ensure that the electronic health records include options for those smoking variants.
This would enable providers and researchers to better understand how extensive the use of cigarette alternatives may be, as well as the possible long-term health impacts of their use, according to the press release.
Particular emphasis was given on the benefit the records could have in providing data on e-cigarette use among youth. The data could also be used in developing strategies focused on curbing vaping among young people.
“It is concerning to know that EHR’s do not currently provide options for recording youth use of e-cigarettes,” Kai Nordfelt, health promotions director for the Southwest Utah Public Health Department, said in a text to St. George News.
“These electronic devices have serious health implications for teens and doctors need this full history to know how to best treat their patients and refer them to tobacco quit services. This EHR data would not only help doctors treat patients, but also help researchers to better understand how vapes harm teens.”
According to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, over 10% of middle school students and over 27% of high school students reported using e-cigarettes over a 30-day period.
“The highly addictive nicotine in e-cigarettes can harm brain development (in youth) and may increase the likelihood of using cigarettes in the future,” the press release states.
An estimated 3.6 million youth were also reported to be currently using e-cigarettes, according to the 2020 National Youth Tobacco Survey. The same survey showed e-cigarette use among young people had also decreased by 1.8 million over the last year.
“Young people in Utah and across the country are using e-cigs at alarming rates,” Stewart said in a statement. “I’m proud to reintroduce this bipartisan bill in an effort to take concrete steps to reverse this trend. There’s no denying it: This is a public health crisis that demands action. Let’s give health providers and researchers the tools they need to ensure a healthier America for future generations.”
Co-sponsoring the bill along with Stewart are Democrat Reps. David Trone of Maryland and Raja Krishnamoorthi of Illinois.
“We are grateful for Congressman Stewart’s continuing support of policies that discourage youth tobacco use,” Nordfelt wrote.
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