Who among us didn’t do their share of risky behaviors on the path to adulthood? I know I did. Some of those decisions were made with full awareness of the potential consequences and risks. Others were only obvious after I reflected on my life and decisions. The trends have changed, but the risks haven’t. And one of the latest trends and risks seems to be vaping. As it turns out, kids need to put down that vape. It’s not harmless. Not at all.
According to The Center on Addiction,“Vaping is the act of inhaling and exhaling the aerosol, often referred to as vapor, which is produced by an e-cigarette or similar device.”
Just because someone doesn’t inhale tobacco smoke, that doesn’t mean it’s not dangerous. The cloud of aerosol produced with vaping has tons of chemical-filled microscopic particles that have been linked to a number of conditions including cancer, respiratory issues, and heart disease.
The Center on Addiction also states that the components that make up vapes and most e-cigs are super dangerous: “The e-liquid in vaporizer products usually contains a propylene glycol or vegetable glycerin-based liquid with nicotine, flavoring, and other chemicals and metals, but not tobacco. Some people use these devices to vape THC, the chemical responsible for most of marijuana’s mind-altering effects, or even synthetic drugs like flakka, instead of nicotine.”
Though some experts still believe they are easier to deal with than traditional cigarettes, we must remind our children that “less harmful” isn’t the same as harm-free. Nicotine is not only addictive — it increases your heart rate which causes a larger risk of suffering a heart attack.
Tales of vaping are on the rise, and many kids are unaware of the risks. Some of the stories are particularly harrowing, like the eight Wisconsin teens who were recently hospitalized for extreme coughing, shortness of breath, weight loss and a number of other symptoms that was later believed to be a consequence of vaping.
As a parent, that has to be one of my biggest fears. I can only imagine what it’s like to know someone so young will be dealing with lung damage for the rest of their life — especially if I had no idea they were doing it.
But these days, the chances are a lot more likely. It’s no big deal to see kids with vapes, containing anything from marijuana to nicotine, smoking on the streets and even in school.
In 2016, the Surgeon General released the report “E-Cigarette Use Among Youth and Young Adults: A Report of the Surgeon General,” and said the following: “E-cigarette use among U.S. youth and young adults is now a major public health concern. E-cigarette use has increased considerably in recent years, growing an astounding 900% among high school students from 2011 to 2015.”
There’s a lot we don’t know about vaping. But we know children are starting at progressively younger ages and if we want to make sure our teens are protected from a wide range of short- and long-term consequences, we’ve got to start having tough conversations.
As parents, we might think we know our children. Still, there is always an area of their lives that isn’t known to us. One of the first steps to making sure our children are protected from the potential consequences of vaping and e-cigarettes is to find out if they or anyone in their peer group is using them.
Then it becomes a lot easier to direct the conversation. Even if the answer is “no,” making sure they have a thorough understanding of the basics, how they’re made, why people may be interested in them, and what risk come along with any potential benefits is a useful flow of conversation.
Our children need to know that we trust them and believe they are responsible enough to make reasonable decisions. So, after talking with them about all the vape-related topics that they are willing to sit still for, the most important part is this: Remind your children that you love them and make sure they feel comfortable enough to come to you when something happens. That way, if they do decide to vape and something goes wrong, they know that they can always come to you for help.
If your child isn’t vaping, great! These conversations are still important. If it turns out that your child is vaping, and they decide that they want to quit, understand that the process can be challenging and they’ll need support. You can expect headaches, emotional frustration/crankiness, and issues concentrating and sleeping. It’s an addiction and fighting addiction is hard.
Should your child not be interested in quitting, reiterate the potential risks with love. Also, use this as an opportunity to know what materials they are using.
Of course, we don’t want our children to use vapes and e-cigs but they are becoming increasingly common. It’s better for us to be prepared for the realities that could happen and have hard conversations and be prepared.
The Center on Addiction has the following for further info on the topic: