Vaping is a Serious Concern for Teens
Vaping is the process of using a battery powered device, usually called an e-cigarette, to heat a liquid into a vapor that can be inhaled. The vapor may contain nicotine (the addictive drug in tobacco), flavoring, and other chemicals, and is rapidly replacing traditional cigarettes as a way to smoke. E-cigarettes can also be used to smoke marijuana, hash oil, or other substances.
Vaping Rapidly Increasing
Among adolescents, e-cigarette use has risen dramatically in the last couple of years. Increases in teen vaping from 2017 to 2018 were the largest ever recorded in the past 43 years for any teen substance use in the United States. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced in November 2018 that vaping had increased nearly 80% among high schoolers and 50% among middle schoolers since the year before. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported that more than 1 in 4 high school students and about 1 in 14 middle school students in 2018 had used a tobacco product in the past 30 days, largely due to e-cigarettes.
Vaping Easily Accessible
In all 50 states, e-cigarettes are not allowed to be purchased by anyone under the age of 18. Despite the laws, minors have found ways to get their hands on vaping tools. They are very accessible online. In addition, many stores do not enforce the law. In April of this year, the Federal Drug Administration threatened to fine Walmart, Kroger, Family Dollar and more than a half dozen convenience store and gas station chains for illegally selling tobacco products to minors. Walmart had a violation rate of about 17% and 7-Eleven had a violation rate of about 25%. BP and Citgo both had violation rates of 35%.
Vaping Health Concerns
Many adolescents falsely believe that vaping is a “safe” form of smoking. Experts dispute this citing several health concerns:
- The American Academy of Pediatrics warns, “e-cigarettes are threatening to addict a new generation to nicotine.” In addition to being highly addictive, nicotine is more harmful to adolescents because it can harm a teenager’s developing brain.
- Even e-cigarettes that do not contain nicotine still have other harmful ingredients, including chemicals linked to lung disease and heavy metals such as lead.
- In April 2019, a study published in Pediatrics revealed that many teens who use e-cigarettes mistakenly think they are only vaping non-nicotine products. About 4 of every 10 teens who said they vaped only non-nicotine products were found to have nicotine in their system. Researchers noted that Juul pods have the highest nicotine concentration.
- In April 2019, the FDA said it has become aware of reports that some people who use e-cigarettes, especially youth and young adults, are experiencing seizures following their use. They are investigating these reports.
- In May 2019, a study published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology demonstrated that e-cigarette flavors damage the cells that line your blood vessels and perhaps your heart health down the line.
- Since e-cigarettes are relatively new, the long-term health effects of users and bystanders are not completely clear, so there could be more dangers of which we are not yet aware.
- There is a risk that e-cigarette devices can explode while being used, which can result in shattering the jaw, burns to the mouth, and knocking out several teeth. One study uncovered 2,035 visits to U.S. emergency rooms from 2015 to 2017 for e-cigarette burns and explosion-related injuries. E-cigarette explosions occur when the lithium-ion battery inside a vape pen overheats, according to the Food and Drug Administration.
What Parents Should Do
The number one thing parents can do is talk to their teens about vaping. Strike up a conversation when you see someone vaping or when you pass an e-cigarette shop. Get the conversation rolling by asking an open-ended question like, “Do kids at your school use e-cigarettes?” The key things to tell your teen is that, although most teens think e-cigarettes are harmless, vaping is another device that can lead to addiction and mess up their brain and respiratory health. If your teen doesn’t seem to believe you, suggest that you research together online. Visit the CDC’s website to provide your teen with scientific evidence of the harm of vaping. In addition, with every conversation you have about substance abuse, you should talk to your teen about strategies to resist peer pressure. “Just say no” does not work in the real world of adolescence. If you would like suggestions, please read our previous blog, Helping Teens Be Prepared to Say No.