If you’re a parent, there are about a million things you worry about every day. Is my son getting enough sleep? Does my daughter have a healthy body image? Is he or she depressed? Do they have friends? In the past few years, we’ve had a new worry to add to the list: vaping, e-cigarettes, and alternative nicotine delivery sources.
How popular is it among our kids? Just ask them.
“About 90% of the kids in high school do it. They do it in class or in the bathroom. These are the same people who think cigarettes are nasty. It’s easy to get, easy to get addicted, and you can get away with using it in class.” Ben, age 18.
“Oh, yeah, everyone vapes. Because it’s easy to get. And they like that there are all kinds of flavors to choose from.” Austin, age 15.
According to the National Youth Tobacco Survey of 2018, 21% of high school students and 5% of middle school students reported using an e-cigarette in the past 30 days. As the kids’ comments indicate, though, the perception is that everyone is doing it, it’s easy to access, and it’s fun. Do they know of the dangers? Some maybe, some not so much.
“I think eventually it will be found out as bad. It is what … your generation thought of cigarettes.” Nick, age 21.
“They put metal in them and it causes lung disease.” Keeley, age 12.
“It’s not safe. You don’t know the long term side effects.” Caleb, age 16.
What do you as a parent need to know to protect your kid? And what should you, as a teen know, to keep yourself safe?
“The medical concern with e-cigarettes and vaping is little information is known on the long term effects of the chemicals and toxins that are used in the liquid products,” said Christopher Stetler, DO, family medicine physician at Mercy Medical Center. “No FDA regulation is in place to monitor the production of the nicotine containing liquids and many are altered on the street and at home,” Stetler adds.
Here’s what we know:
• Just because e-cigarettes are flavored, doesn’t mean they are good for you or just fun. They contain nicotine, heavy metals, and other chemicals that harm the lungs, are addictive, and can cause cancer. Some may even contain more nicotine than cigarettes, while others increase nicotine exposure due to the pleasant flavors used.
• The chemicals in e-cigarettes are so toxic, that children and adults have been poisoned by swallowing, breathing or absorbing e-cigarette liquid.
• Some e-cigarettes do not produce vapor or visible emissions and can be disguised as common objects with online communities dedicated to modifying e-cigs to look like just about anything (a pen, a phone, a handheld game, a box of Altoids), with the individual components available online for assembly and personalization.
While it might seem like everyoneis vaping, there are some teens that aren’t. Why not?
“Everyone’s doing it but not me because my momwould kill me…and it’s gross.” Chasse, age 15.
“It’s popular because most people don’t realize how deadlyit is. I think if more people knew of the dangers of vaping, there would be less people doing it.” Ty, age 17.
Stetler recommends parents talk to their kids about the dangers of e-cigarettes. “And parents should avoid the use of these products themselves and never use them in front of their children,” Stetler adds.
He also said that children and teens who are already vaping should work with their parents to seek medical advice on the best ways to quit.
“Healthcare professionals should make it routine to screen for the use of e-cigarettes and other tobacco products in children and adolescents and offer safe alternatives for quitting,” he said. “As adults–whether a medical professional, a parent, or an adult role model–we can play a key role in creating a safe environment for children to ask questions about their health and offer ways to improve it.”