TEENS AND VAPING
If you have a middle school or high school aged child, then you are all too familiar with vaping. It has become a nationwide public health concern, an epidemic of sorts, according to many researchers and doctors. While the statistics on teen vaping can be confusing, we know that young teens are exposed to vaping during middle school and their personal use escalates during high school. The marketing of e-cigarettes has drawn the adolescent population in, with the advertising of fun flavors, like Bubble Gum or Cotton Candy. The design of these devices are colorful, sleek, and modern. E-cigarettes are easy to hide because of their size, and the smoke is often odorless, which makes it harder for parents to detect and recognize.
E-cigarettes are battery-powered and they work by heating the liquid (or vape juice) into a vapor, which is then inhaled. The liquid may contain nicotine or a sweet, flavored substance, along with other damaging chemicals, such as lead, nickel, and cancer-causing additives. Scientific research highlights the health risks of teen vaping, including, but not limited to an increased likelihood of cancer, popcorn lung, nicotine addiction, breathing problems, and engagement in other high-risk behaviors. The choice to vape has a negative impact on the teen’s overall mental and physical health.
Teens often report using vaping as a coping skill. The increase in depression, anxiety, and suicidality across this age range has teens using e-cigarettes as a form of self-medicating. Many teens choose to vape, even with the knowledge of the physical and mental health concerns that exist. The high dosages of nicotine that these devices can deliver carries a high risk of addiction. This type of nicotine use can lead to mood changes, attention difficulties, change in sleep patterns, and increased irritability.
If parents are concerned about their teen vaping, start by having an open conversation. Share your concerns with a calm tone of voice, ask questions about their stress level and current coping skills, be non-judgmental and curious. It is important to not criticize or get angry. If your teen becomes defensive or shuts down, it’s okay to pause the conversation and revisit it at a later date. If the conversation is going well, educate your teen on the dangers of vaping and give them the language they need to combat peer pressure. If your teen calls you out on your own history of smoking nicotine, be transparent and respond genuinely. It is important you set a good example. And most importantly, if you feel like your teen is experiencing physical or mental health effects from e-cigarette use, contact your family doctor or a mental health provider for support and resources.
See the links below for more information and tips on how to have a constructive conversation with your teen about the risks of vaping.
https://e-cigarettes.surgeongeneral.gov/#https://www.cdc.gov/tobacco/basic_information/e-cigarettes/Quick-Facts-on-the-Risks-of-E-cigarettes-for-Kids-Teens-and-Young-Adults.html - TRACY STREPEK, LCSW