The number of teens using e-cigarettes and vaping devices has soared. In fact, recent studies show that high school students are using them at a higher rate than adults.
Vaping vs. smoking
We all know that cigarettes are harmful, but what about vaping which involves the inhalation of an aerosol that is converted into a mist by a battery-operated e-cigarette or similar device. In addition, the user also inhales toxic additives as well as mold, fungus, and other pollutants that build up in the device over time. Many teens vape enticingly sweet flavors and often add nicotine which is more addictive than heroin, morphine, and cocaine.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the rate of teenage smoking has been steadily decreasing to 11% in 2015. Yet a 2016 National Youth Tobacco Survey reports that 1.7 million high school students have admitted they used a vaping device in the last thirty days. Because vaping is less harsh, people inhale much more deeply than cigarette smokers, so they inhale large amounts of toxins as well as nicotine.
“Although we have made significant progress in protecting our youth from tobacco-related health harms, we still have a long way to go,” says Kimberly Collom, health educator at the Washtenaw County Health Department. “It is essential that we address e-cigarette use among young people and do everything we can to prevent youth tobacco use.”
New FDA regulations
In September, Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Scott Gottlieb announced that youth vaping has reached “an epidemic proportion” and that the agency will halt sales of flavored e-cigarettes if major manufacturers can’t prove they are doing enough to prevent child and teen use.
According to the Washtenaw County Health Department, Michigan spends $4.59 billion annually on health care costs directly related to smoking. The tobacco industry spends an estimated $320 million to market their products in the state each year, yet Michigan spends only $1.63 million on tobacco prevention and control programming.
Addicted to vaping
Vaping devices can be easily hidden in a pocket or sleeve and because the odor mimics sweet or pleasant scents, parents can’t always tell when their teen is using one. Many teens believe that vaping is healthy because the packaging touts it as “all natural”. Yet the evidence is clear: many of the chemicals used to flavor e-liquid irritate the lungs and over time put the user’s health at risk. According to the U.S. Surgeon General, the brain is not fully developed until the early to mid-20s. Exposure to nicotine during periods of significant brain development, including adolescence, can disrupt the growth of parts of the brain that control attention, learning, and susceptibility to addiction. Effects can be long-lasting and can include lower impulse control and mood disorders.
Parent and school involvement
The best thing parents and teachers can do is to admit that vaping has become an epidemic. A local parent recently walked into Pioneer High School and saw a student-made sign which read “Don’t be a fool…put down that Juul. “
“Sounds like there are some who think it is a problem in the schools,” she says.
Andrew Cluley, Communications Director for Ann Arbor Public schools emphasizes, “Students believe it’s the number one problem in our system.” To that end, both Huron and Pioneer High Schools will be participating in The Great American Smoke Out on November 16th. Students will set up demonstrations to show the dangers of using nicotine in any form, particularly vaping.
Learning about the health risks of using e-products is a vital step in being able to have open discussions with teenagers. “Vaping is an issue across America,” Mr. Cluley admits. “It’s important to involve our students in educating their peers.”
Facts about Vaping
- In order to purchase e-cigarettes and vaping products, you must be 18 years or older and have a valid photo ID.
- Vaping is not a proven method for smoking cessation, and is frequently used in addition to cigarettes, not in place of them.
The nicotine used in vaping devices affects brain development and function in young people.
- E-cigarettes and vaping devices are not FDA approved, and there is no evidence that the aerosol from them is safe.
- The additives, heavy metals, ultrafine particles, and chemicals they contain include toxins and potential carcinogens.
- The use of vaping devices may be re-normalizing smoking behavior.
- Parents and teachers can contact Holly Kowalzck for more information about smoking/vaping cessation by calling 419-893
Talk to Your Teens About Vaping
- Set a positive, tobacco-free example. If you smoke or use e-cigarette products, it’s never too late to quit. Call 1-800-QUIT-NOW or visit smokefree.gov.
- Find credible information online at SurgeonGeneral.gov as studies are ongoing about the short and long-term effects of e-cigarettes.
- Contact the Washtenaw County Health Department at www.washtenaw.org/health or call 734-544-6700 for more
information local resources.
- Start the conversation early. Kids as young as nine years old have reportedly been trying vaping.
- Avoid criticism and keep an open dialogue with your child. Ask questions about their exposure to vaping via the internet, advertising, and friends.
- Connect your child with online resources and encourage him/her to research the effects of vaping for themselves, and be available to answer questions over time as the conversation continues. Livescience.com is an excellent resource.
- Be mindful of your child’s online activity. E-cigarette products are illegal to purchase under the age of 18, but online vendors don’t always ask for proof of age.