Many teens have seen peers using e-cigarettes, and some have even tried them. Whether out of curiosity, peer pressure, or a desire to be cool, vaping can quickly lead to nicotine addiction and a whole host of health problems. The best way to protect kids from vaping is to make sure they never start in the first place. But if they do, it is important that they understand the risks and know how to quit.
What is vape?
Vape, short for electronic cigarette, refers to any device that allows a user to inhale vaporized liquid from a cartridge or tank. These devices are battery-powered and have a mouthpiece or port, an atomizer that heats the liquid to create an aerosol that looks like water vapor but contains chemicals including nicotine and more than 30 other additives. They can also contain marijuana or other drugs. The FDA has alerted the public to thousands of cases of serious lung illness, some resulting in death, that it believes are linked to these devices.
These devices come in a variety of shapes and sizes, from handheld pipes to small USB flash drives. Most have a small tank that holds the liquid, and some have a replaceable cartridge. Most use a coil and an atomizer to convert the liquid into vapor that can be inhaled. Some devices look like cigarettes; others resemble USB flash drives or are the size of a postage stamp. The liquid may be flavored or may contain nicotine, marijuana or other drugs.
In a recent survey, 85 percent of teen vapers reported favoring fruit, dessert and candy flavors. One e-cigarette pod can contain as much nicotine as 20 regular cigarettes, and the drug can cause the brain to develop and become addicted. Nicotine is known to interfere with concentration and can affect memory, learning and development.
Parents should be prepared to talk to their kids about the risks associated with vaping, and it’s a good idea to do so sooner rather than later. Kids can start to vape as early as middle school, and they’ll have been exposed to a lot of marketing and messaging encouraging them to try it.
A recent CDC study shows that, despite a decrease in usage during the pandemic, vaping among teens continues to increase and could continue to soar. That’s largely due to the proliferation of small, disposable products like Juul and Puff Bars that are easy to conceal.
If your child has already started vaping, the most effective way to help them quit is to give them some time off from it. If you haven’t had a conversation with them yet, start with general questions about what they hear other kids at school doing and why they think it’s cool. Then, ask them if they’d be willing to give it up for their friends. If they say yes, help them decide on a day to quit and make a plan for how they’ll stay smoke-free.