As if we didn’t have enough to worry about, there is a new major problem targeting teenagers: VAPING. The Food and Drug Administrations (FDA) has declared youth vaping an epidemic, and is trying to ratchet up the control of these devices and substances to teenagers. Vaping has become the most popular tobacco product among teenagers, with nearly 12 percent of high school students, (almost 2 million) and 3 percent of middle schoolers (500,000) admitting to using the devices in the last 30 days. Of greater concern is the incredible growth daily of the number of kids trying it. While cigarette smoking is decreasing among teenagers, vaping is on the rise, as kids falsely perceive it to be safer than smoking tobacco. In this week’s column, I will cover some of the basics that parents should know about, and in future columns will address the allure for teens, the neurological and psychological basis for using, the consequences, and what can be done.
According to the Partnership for Drug Free Kids, “Vapes and e-cigarettes are battery operated devices that people use to inhale an aerosol, which typically (though not always) contains nicotine along with flavorings or other chemicals.” Vapes come in an array of styles, looking like cigarettes, pipes, and everyday objects like flash drives, pens, inhalers, and other objects. As popularity and use increases, manufacturers go to great lengths to assist teens in hiding the devices and deceiving adults around them, like putting them in hooded sweatshirts with the teens smoking through the seemingly harmless cord. These are strange manners of administration created by the vaping companies, considering they strongly declare that vaping is for adults only – sure! E-cigarettes are known by many different names, including e-cigs, hookahs, mods, vape pens, JUULs, jeweling, and electronic nicotine delivery systems (ENDS). The devices work by placing a liquid cartridge into a battery powered heating element, which atomizes the solution, and is breathed in by a mouthpiece. Although the liquids are often flavored, the vaping is usually odorless and smokeless, and generally undetectable. The liquids are also often flavored and packaged to give the appearance of something fun and harmless. Unfortunately, that is where the problem starts. Most vaping products that teens use have high levels of nicotine. According to the manufacturer of JUUL, the most popular device, a single JUUL pod contains as much nicotine as a pack of 20 regular cigarettes! The younger kids start using a vaping/nicotine product, the higher the chances for addiction to nicotine, and the stronger the addiction. 40% of kids who vaped started using tobacco products, compared to 10% of youth that did not smoke at all. That is just the beginning. Teens who begin to vape are twice as likely to move on to marijuana products as those who do not vape, with marijuana in the form of hash oil, wax, and other potent THC products. Nicotine and THC are extremely dangerous and damaging to the vulnerable, developing teen brain. Again, that is just the beginning. There are a host of severe medical, psychological, and developmental problems which arise out of vaping. I will cover these in future articles in detail.
Knowledge is the first step in battling this epidemic. It is, literally, happening right under our noses. Although our kids believe, and want us to believe, that vaping is harmless, that is far from the truth. They are being manipulated by big business, who are motivated by huge profits, both now and in the future. What teens perceive as harmless actually has severe, and long term negative consequences.