Last year, e-cigarette use, or vaping, among high school students rose by 78%, and more than 3.6 million middle and high school students used e-cigarettes — an increase of 1.5 million more youth from the previous year. These are alarming statistics and they are expected to continue to rise.
It is never too early to start the conversation about the dangers of e-cigarettes and vaping with your kids. Saying, ”just say no” to e-cigarettes, is not enough. Don’t wait until they become teens. For many kids, e-cigarettes are a gateway to smoking, and those who vape are four times as likely to begin smoking cigarettes.
Adults need to set a positive example — and keep the conversation going. This is not a one time-and-done conversation. Prepare yourself to be ready to answer “Why should I not use these products?” and “Why is nicotine harmful?”
Most vape devices release a number of potentially toxic substances, fine particles, metals, other toxins and nicotine. Nicotine use in youth is highly addictive, as their brains are going through massive changes and are more sensitive to the effects of nicotine. Nicotine rewires the brain, making it easier to get hooked on other drugs and results in problems with concentration, learning and impulse control. Also, when one stops vaping, they experience nicotine withdrawal symptoms which can be painful and sickening.
Be patient and ready to listen. Look for opportunities to discuss vaping with your child. They may present themselves as; letters from the school about vaping policies, vaping on TV, advertisements, someone vaping, or passing a vape shop. Be ready to listen rather than give a lecture. Ask them “What do you think about vaping?” Keep your eyes open for unfamiliar vape lingo in text messages, as kids often brag about their vaping on social media. Check their Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat and YouTube accounts.
Different substances can be vaped, but the most common are flavored nicotine e-liquids, which come in small bottles, cartridges or pre-filled pods. Nicotine e-liquids have varying levels of nicotine. Juul pods, the most popular device, contain as much nicotine as 20 cigarettes. Marijuana can also be vaped. In some cases kids might think they’re trying an e-cigarette, not knowing it has marijuana in it, given there is no tell-tale odor. You might. also find devices that look like flash drives, e-juice bottles, pods or packaging.
Finally, look for changes in your child’s behavior and appearance. Vaping can cause bloodshot eyes, dry mouth, excessive thirst as well as changes in behavior and mood. Chemicals used in e-juices have the effect of drying out the mouth and nasal passages, so as a result, kids drink more liquids, urinate more or experience nose bleeds.
If you don’t know where to start, check out the information provided on Rutland Regional Medical Center’s website, RRMC.org. Search for “vaping” to access resources and information that are part of our #BESMART DON’T START anti-vaping campaign. Remember, the best way to teach your kids to be responsible is to not smoke cigarettes or e-cigarettes yourself. If you need help with your own cigarette or e-cigarette use, call 747-3768 or 1-800-QUIT-NOW.
Written by Sarah Cosgrove, respiratory therapist, education coordinator and tobacco cessation specialist at the Community Health Team at Rutland Regional Medical Center.