Vaping and Your Teen: What Parents Need to Know
Vaping is inhaling a water vapor that is produced by a battery-powered electronic cigarette, commonly referred to as an e-cigarette. The device has a cartridge of fluid, e-liquid or e-juice, which often contains nicotine and/or flavoring. The liquid is heated and converted into a mist that people “vape.”
Currently, e-cigarettes are the most commonly used form of tobacco among teens and young adults, more common than smoking cigarettes. Teens report they have used e-cigarettes because they are curious and they like the taste. They also believe that they are less harmful than traditional tobacco products. However, research proves otherwise.
E-cigarettes Are Not Harmless
Everyone knows traditional cigarettes are bad; they are the number one cause of preventable death in the US. Just because e-cigarettes don’t produce tar or other toxins found in cigarettes, doesn’t mean they’re risk-free. E-liquids that contain nicotine, a highly addictive chemical, cause an elevation in heart rate, blood pressure and changes in the brain. The brain continues to grow until the age of 25 and nicotine can interfere with brain development, which can contribute to learning problems, including ADD. Young people who use e-cigarettes are also at an increased risk of going on to smoke tobacco and develop addictions to other drugs.
In addition to the risks associated with nicotine, there are other chemicals found in e-cigarettes that can lead to serious health problems. The flavored liquids that are popular among teens, contain diacetyl, a chemical that can cause a severe lung disease.
Also problematic is “dripping,” a new trend teens are engaging in. Dripping is when the user drips a few drops of the e-liquid directly on the hot coils, while on the highest heat setting, and then immediately inhales the vapor. This is done to produce a thicker, more flavorful smoke. If the liquid contains nicotine, dripping increases the levels of that as well. A recent study of Connecticut high school students found about a quarter those surveyed used e-cigarettes for dripping, which is problematic due to the health risks. The danger of this behavior is when e-cigarettes are used on the highest heat setting, formaldehyde and acetaldehyde, known carcinogens, are produced.
Some people attempt to use e-cigarettes to quit smoking. However, inhaling the nicotine vapor from e-cigarettes actually perpetuates addiction to nicotine and interferes with quitting smoking. To quit smoking, multiple FDA approved treatments exist and using e-cigarettes is not one of them.
E-cigarettes Can Be Used to Deliver Other Drugs
A study published in the medical journal, Pediatrics, found that 1 in 5 high school students used e-cigarettes to vape concentrated THC extracted from marijuana, called hash oil. . Vaping hash oil, which is analogous to “freebasing marijuana” causes an intense rapid high and increases the risk of addiction. It also increases the risk of severe side effects such as panic attacks and hallucinations.
Hash oil though isn’t the only drug that can be abused in e-cigarettes. Others include, opiates, flakka, and synthetic marijuana (K2 and Spice). Therefore, you really don’t know what someone is smoking when you see him or her using an e-cigarette.
What Parents Need to Know
They’re Easy to Get
Although it’s illegal to sell vape pens and paraphernalia to teens under 18, they can easily acquire them online.
The Devices Are Disguised
Teens are using vape pens in plain site. Some are disguised as ballpoint pens, USB sticks and tablet/phone styluses, allowing them to take them to school or hide them in their home.
It’s Easier to Hide Drug Use
Since vape pens are smokeless and odorless, teens can hide drug use easier; they don’t come home smelling of tobacco or marijuana.