The CDC has been issuing foreboding warnings about the risks associated with youth and e-cigarettes as new research has unveiled some of the health effects of vaping, and now says that it's not just teens but pre-teens hitting the vape pens in higher numbers.
From 2017 to 2018, e-cigarette use for high schoolers jumped from 11.7% to a whopping 20.8%, and for middle schoolers 3.3% up to 4.9%. In the same period, no other areas of tobacco/nicotine products increased, only the vaping.
Long gone are the days when dubious parents could smell cigarettes or marijuana on their children’s clothes or breath. Vape pens are easy to conceal and don’t generally leave noxious odors behind, with the most popular brand resembling a USB drive.
So, what can you do at home, if you’re worried your child could be, or has been, swayed into vaping? Start with the main staple of parenting: talk to them. Ask if they’re curious, what they know about it, how they would respond if offered. From the Surgeon General, this is a fast and handy synopsis of the facts, printable and in PDF, here. Share the facts, and of course, lead with example.
The CDC also recommends not exposing your children to second-hand vapors from your pens if you are having your own difficulty kicking the habit. Children exposed in a natural home setting to substances are more likely to pick up those habits themselves.
Because of its clever packaging and fruity flavors, there’s a pervasive myth that most vape pens don’t include anything more harmful than sweet tasting vapor. But again, a recent CDC study showed that 99% of all vape products sold in the US include nicotine. Alongside that comes the unsavory combo of heavy metals (nickel, tin and lead), ultrafine particles that burrow deep into your lung tissue and carcinogens, to name few.
While cigarettes have largely become a faux pas for most youth, vaping has not. In a recent study by the Truth Initiative, only about one third of teens surveyed knew that their vapes contained nicotine. To further that, the most popular vaping product in the US, Juul, known for its sweet flavors and variety, is actually owned by Altria Group – formerly known as Phillip Morris Companies.
In this twenty first century narrative, vaping is now conformist behavior rather than rebellion; it’s the rolled pack of smokes in your granddad’s sleeve, the red tipped butts overflowing ashtrays at cocktail parties, before anyone knew what cigarettes would cost them later.
Because it’s a fairly recent product to hit the shelves, cessation options aren’t as plentiful for vaping as compared to other tobacco products, and certainly not for children. Given the national spotlight on the dangers of vaping, that’s due to change as our communal knowledge does. Contact your pediatrician or check out Becoming an Ex: How to help a teen stop vaping by the Truth Initiative to start the conversation.