My 15-year-old son and I have talked about smoking cigarettes enough times for me to realize (and believe) it’s not something that he and his friends do. They know the facts; they’ve seen the scary ads where people have lost their voice boxes and parts of their face due to smoking. They don’t want to risk those consequences.
But there is something out there that’s taken its place: Vaping, also known as Juuling, or using an e-cigarette. And according to my son, over half of the people he knows do it on the regular.
I’ve asked him what he thinks the appeal is and if he believes kids his age aren’t aware of the dangers vaping can cause. He flat out said, “They say they’re positive it’s safe, way safer than smoking a real cigarette.”
That’s probably because vaping is so new, and hit the market so quickly, there hasn’t been enough time or evidence to support how harmful it is — especially for our teens who are still developing and growing.
While the dangers may not be the same with vaping as they are with cigarettes, it doesn’t mean it won’t cause a separate set of problems for our kids, nor is it a better choice for our teens.
According to an article in CNN Health, “Experts say the technology and chemistry of vaping might pose an entirely different threat.”
Dr. Sharon Levy is the director of the Adolescent Substance Use and Addiction Program at Boston Children’s Hospital and has been studying kids who are addicted to vaping and are showing signs of “what appear to be psychiatric symptoms rarely seen with traditional cigarettes or among adults.”
So, we are seeing side effects from vaping in younger people that we don’t see in them when they smoke regular cigarettes, as well as side-effects not found in adults. If your child knew that, I wonder if they’d still believe vaping was a safer choice.
What does this mean for the teen who is addicted to vaping? (It certainly doesn’t mean we want our kids to drop the vape and pick up a cig. ) First, we must understand that one Juul pod, the device you plug into the e-cigarette brand you are using which contains the nicotine, has “the same amount of nicotine as a pack of cigarettes,” reports CNN.
So while electronic cigarettes may be a “healthier” version for adults who are trying to quit smoking traditional cigarettes, it doesn’t seem to be the case with our teenagers because of “how kids’ brains are wired and developing, and the gadgets’ unique appeal to kids.”
Levy has seen teens who have spiked anxiety and are not able to focus as a result of their vaping addiction. And that’s just the beginning since vaping is still too new to realize what the long term effects could be.
Levy warns that we don’t know “how high those peaks [of nicotine] go and how quickly it gets into the bloodstream and into the brain.”
She has also seen some teens report signs from vaping that resemble nicotine toxicity, such as headaches and stomachaches, which she believes is because the nicotine in an e-cigarette causes “blood to peak higher than they do with traditional cigarettes.”
In a study conducted by Maciej Goniewicz, an associate professor of oncology and pharmacology at Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center, it was found that adolescents who had used e-cigarettes had higher levels of cotinine in their urine than those who smoked cigarettes.
While vaping, you are not only letting nicotine into your bloodstream, you are also taking in “nicotine salts” (nicotine mixed with an organic acid) which make these e-cigarettes more pleasant to inhale. The problem with the salts is they may cause health problems later in life we know nothing about.
There was an 80% increase in vaping in high school students since November of 2017, which was what prompted the Food And Drug Administration to crack down on teen usage by refusing to allow certain fruit flavors from gas station shelves as the sweet choices (such as mango) were tempting teens.
Not only do health experts feel when teens get hooked on a substance like nicotine it can lead to drug and alcohol use, Levy is concerned it is “interfering with brain development.”
As overwhelming as it can be to have yet another thing to be worried about, parents need to be aware of the health risks of vaping and the number of teens who are doing it. I’ve talked to many fellow moms and dads who saw their child’s vaping mechanism and thought it was something used with the computer and didn’t even give it a second thought.
Parents, we must educate ourselves about what they look like, and be aware of whether our kids are experimenting with vaping. We need to talk to them about the risks and the side effects vaping can have on their growth and development, because even if they aren’t seeing any ill effects now, it doesn’t mean they won’t sneak up on them later.
Anything that’s risking our children’ brain development is worth the fight — it’s time to get in the know if you aren’t already.