Vaping and Teens, What You Need To Know
A waft of vapor tinged with a fruity smell permeates the air in a restaurant, a burbling sound follows, accompanied by the intake sound of a puff. These now familiar social markers have replaced what we used to experience with nicotine in social settings, the smell of tobacco smoke, the cigarette dangling over an ashtray, the action of someone taking a drag. Vaping, E-Cigarettes, Juuling, they are all terms that refer to heat versus combustible nicotine usage. ENDS, or Electronic Nicotine Delivery Systems, usage has increased in recent years, but critically the increase most seen has been amongst teens. With such “juice” flavors as Pumpkin Pie, Chocolate, Banana Split and yes, even Unicorn Puke, ENDS use seems especially targeted more at developing young adults than established smokers.
Since 2007, E-Cigarette use has increased 900% according to the Surgeon General and the CDC, and a 78% increase in just the last year amongst high schoolers alone. That translates to approximately 1 in 5 High School students, and 1 in 20 Middle School students currently using e-cigarettes. Nevermind the fact that E-Cigarettes are not supposed to be sold to minors. The Food and Drug Administration has recently announced that they will be enforcing strict penalties for illegal sales of electronic cigarettes to minors. The FDA will also be cracking down on favorite vaping companies such as Juul that produce advertising in what they have referred to as “kid-friendly marketing and appeal of these products.” “We see clear signs that youth use of electronic cigarettes has reached an epidemic proportion.”
The advertising of e-cigarettes and vaping has had a substantial social impact on teens. Sarper Taskiran, MD child and adolescent psychologist at the Child Mind Institute, was interviewed about the design, packaging, and marketing of e-cigarettes. “The teens are after innovation, and they’re attracted by sleek design and ease of use.” He stated. “They look like an Apple product.” Juul, the company behind the most popular brand e-cigarettes, reached a $10 billion valuation quicker than any company in history with a 50% market share of the vaping industry. Juul has mass-produced e-cigs that look very much like flash drives, and they can be conveniently charged in any USB port.
Contrary to popular belief, ENDS usage isn’t harmless. The use of the term “vaping” or “vapor” gives off a misty almost ethereal quality. But it’s more akin to an aerosol. That is what it is classified as by the FDA. As well the most concentrated drug in an E-Cigarette is none other than nicotine. Nicotine has been shown through countless studies to stunt brain development in young adults: impacting learning, memory, and attention. E-Cigarette usage has also proved to create a crossover effect between vaping or juuling and traditional combustible tobacco usage due to causing nicotine dependence.
“Juuling can lead to nicotine dependence. This is in part due to the high concentration of nicotine that is contained in Juul pods. One juul pod is equal to a pack of cigarettes. Most people who are using this product are unaware,” stated Converse County Prevention Specialist Lisa Patterson.
Parents, teachers, and coaches have become increasingly concerned with new research about the harmful effects of e-cigarette use among young people. A recent study on “open respiratory research” conducted by the British Thoracic Society concluded that there are several cytotoxic silicate and metal particles that are present in the highly addictive, liquid that our teens are inhaling at an alarming rate. Because vaping is still new, the long-term side effects are not yet known. However, based on scientific research, it is intelligently plausible to conclude that vaping is not a healthy practice for our teens.
One such health concern that is showing up as an ingredient within E-Cigarette compounds is diacetyl. Diacetyl caused quite an uproar not too long ago when discovered in the buttery-flavored additives in foods like popcorn, caramel, and dairy products — leading many manufacturers of these food items to permanently remove it as it showed to create scarring in the lungs. Symptoms of "Popcorn Lung" include wheezing, coughing, shortness of breath much akin to other bronchial diseases like COPD. Diacetyl has now found a home in E-Cigarettes e-juice flavor kits. A recent Harvard research study found that 39 out of 51 such e-juice brands directly contained diacetyl, and users were inhaling the chemical directly into their lungs. The study also found that “pentanedione and acetoin were present in 23 and 46 of the 51 flavors it tested." And that "92 percent of the e-cigarettes had one of the three chemicals present.” Each of these chemicals has been shown to cause traumatic respiratory harm.
Talk to your teens about vaping, e-cigarette usage, so they understand that ENDS use isn’t harmless. Try to frame the conversation so that you have the facts and help them understand the “why.” Don’t expect only to have one conversation and call it solved. But have a series of discussions with your teen about vaping, so they understand your expectations and continue to be able to come to you with their questions about E-Cigarette use. There are loads of resources on DrugFree.org and the American Lung Foundation and other sites to help you prepare with useful information and tips for having a series of conversations. “A state-wide program that parents may want to avail themselves of is the Wyoming quit tobacco program for people who are trying to quit, which is online at quitwyo.org," concluded Patterson.