Teens and Vaping
Each week I hear more and more stories about parents finding their kids with vaping paraphernalia. A recent article in the New York Times and a number of other news stories lately have highlighted the brewing "epidemic" our young people face as a result of vaping. This may not be the pack of cigarettes that we experimented with as kids but don’t let the lack of tar and smoke fool you into thinking “it’s only water vapor”. E-cigarettes are now the most frequently used tobacco product among adolescents. Approximately 2.1 million middle and high school students were e-cigarette users in 2017…Numbers far surpassing that of traditional cigarettes.
What’s the difference between this new breed of tobacco product and the old stuff? For starters, E-cigarettes don’t produce smoke, they produce vapor, or steam. Vaping is the act of inhaling and exhaling the vapor produced by the heated nicotine liquid, or “juice” of an electronic cigarette, vape pen, or personal vaporizer. E-cigarettes have been around for about a decade and began as a method of weaning a person off of cigarettes and tobacco products. A person could take a drag of their e-cigarette, get the nicotine spike they needed and then put it away. Over time, they would use the device less and less as they kicked their habit.
However, as e-cigarettes became more advanced, companies started offering a cornucopia of different flavors and varieties. In effect, e-cigarettes started utilizing more and more options to market to customers and teens alike.
Kids and adolescents seem to gravitate towards vaping for the same reasons as usually found with kids and adolescents that gravitate towards traditional smoking. Aside from being a social activity that they can share with peers, The CDC and FDA examined self-reported reasons for using e-cigarettes among middle and high school students. The report found that 39% vaped because a friend or family member also did. 31% cited the availability of flavors, like mint, cotton candy, or cake batter. 17% reported that they believed e-cigarettes were less harmful than other forms of tobacco used for smoking. E-cigarettes are also easier to obtain, cost less, and can be used indoors.
So is vaping actually less dangerous than people tend to think? First things first, E-cigarettes contain high levels of nicotine. One “pod” of the popular brand JUUL, contains nicotine levels equivalent to an entire pack of cigarettes. It is supposed to last as long as one too, but since vaping can be done rather stealthily indoors, users tend to hit their e-cigarettes all day long and finish a pod much more quickly than they’d finish a whole pack of 20 cigarettes. Even though there is no combustion, vaping actually does cause lung irritation akin to that seen in smokers and people with lung disease. It also causes damage to vital immune system cells. Not only that, but vaping increases heart rate and blood pressure, and therefore, can create or worsen circulatory problems. It is also too soon to tell the long-term effect that this will have on our lungs.
How can you talk to your kids about vaping?As a parent, you are a prevailing influence in your child’s life. If you smoke or vape, your child might very well interpret your actions as an endorsement. Without lecturing, simply have a calm, non-judgmental discussion about vaping and the dangers associated with it. If you are concerned that your teen is vaping, ask them what made them start vaping in the first place. Maybe they are trying to fit in at school or feel more like an adult. Understand the reasoning behind it and you will be better equipped to deal with it.
Overcoming an addiction or bad habit can be very difficult. Fortunately, there are professionals who deal with this sort of thing regularly. A therapist trained in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy can help a person develop better strategies to cope with life’s stresses, rather than turning to vaping to self-soothe. A therapist can help a young person (or older) develope positive, effective and helpful coping strategies as opposed to developing dangerous habits that can lead to serious health risks. If you, your adolescent, or someone else you know is struggling with bad habits or addictions like smoking and vaping, contact the caring professionals at Gooding Wellness for the help you need.