E–cigarettes, or vape pens, have become very popular among high school students in the past five years. E–cigarettes are battery–operated devices that heat a liquid which usually contains nicotine and other flavoring and additives. Vaping is inhaling the aerosol or vapor produced by the heat. E–cigarettes are now the most commonly used form of tobacco and nicotine and are just as addictive as regular cigarettes.
In addition, e–cigarettes can contain harmful ingredients such as ultrafine particles that can be inhaled deep into the lungs, chemical flavorings that are linked to lung disease, heavy metals such as nickel, tin and lead, and carcinogens like formaldehyde. The health effects are currently unknown. E–cigarettes also contain high doses of nicotine. One Juul pod delivers as much nicotine as a whole pack of cigarettes, plus it comes with the punch of sweet flavors like passion fruit, mango and creme brulee. Nicotine affects the developing teen brain and can impact personality, learning, and attention.
E–cigarettes may resemble cigarettes, cigars, pens, or even USB memory sticks. There are many brands and a variety of flavors available. Amid mounting press from the Food and Drug Administration, Juul announced last month it would no longer distribute candy-like flavors to brick and mortar stores.
In a federally funded, national study of teen drug use this year, one in five high school seniors reported vaping nicotine in the past 30 days, up from 11 percent in 2017. E–cigarette use was also up nearly two-fold among 10th graders, from 8.2 to 16.1 percent. Both are the largest one–year increases in the use of any substance in the study’s 44–year history. Another study, The FDA’s 2018 National Youth Tobacco Survey, found 3.6 million middle and high school students had reported currently using e–cigarettes in 2018. That’s up 78 percent from 2017 among high schoolers and 48 percent among middle schoolers and more than two–thirds of those students were using flavored e–cigarettes. Thirteen and a half percent of high school seniors reported they had vaped “just flavoring” in the past month – a sign that many teens were unknowingly inhaling nicotine.
How do you talk to your teen about vaping?
You can influence your child’s decision to use e–cigarettes, even if you have struggled with tobacco addiction yourself. Learn about e–cigarettes, and when you have a conversation with your teen, explain why e-cigarettes are harmful and the high potential for addiction. You might also suggest that your teen talk with other trusted adults who are aware of the risks of vaping and who can reinforce your views.