I know teenagers who vape. Most of us probably know someone who vapes. In 2017, the CDC surveyed middle and high school students and found over 42 percent of students had used electronic vapor products.
Growing up in the 90’s, I remember seeing advertisements about the dangers of tobacco use. I saw pictures of people with tracheostomies and warnings about the risks of lung cancer, caused by smoking cigarettes. The pictures and dangers frightened me and made smoking very unappealing (like this 30-second anti-smoking clip, produced by the CDC).
From 1965 to 2014, the number of smokers in the United States dropped from 42 percent to 16 percent. According to this article, the decline in tobacco used was caused by the anti-smoking campaigns, stricter tobacco laws, increased tobacco taxes, and the media’s shift away from glamorizing smoking.
Unfortunately, the $35 billion dollar tobacco industry did not slink away quietly. Instead, they created electronic cigarettes marketed toward young people. Ironically, e-cigarettes were invented by a man, Hon Lik, who’s father died from lung cancer after a lifetime of heavy smoking.
Commercial sales of electronic cigarettes began in 2003. E-cigarettes are commonly called; “vapes”, “tank systems”, “hookahs”, “ENDS” (electronic nicotine delivery systems), “mods”, and/or “JUULs”. JUULing is one of the most commonly used nicotine products by middle and high school students. It is appealing because it is easy to hide (it looks like a USB device) and it comes in fun flavors, like mint, fruit, cotton candy and bubble gum. My daughter told me most girls hide it in their bra.
I asked my kids what they knew about vaping, if their friends vaped or if they had ever tried vaping. My two middle school kids were not directly exposed to vaping, but they were aware of kids who hid in the bathroom stalls to vape.
My two high school kids had a different experience. They both know several kids who vape and have even been given the opportunity to vape (via JUULs). My question spurred an interesting conversation about when and where students vape, why they vape and the perceived ‘positive’ and negative side effects of nicotine use. To be clear, I do not believe there are positive effects, but I wanted to better understand the appeal. I was told kids enjoy the flavors and playing with the smoke vapors in their mouth.
I spoke with other high school students who told me they know students who sneak a puff or several puffs, during class, when the teacher is not looking. When I asked about nicotine vaping vs. marijuana vaping, they told me that most kids who vape use both products.
Here is a guide for parents who want to learn more about vaping and JUULing. If you’re not sure how to start the conversation with your kids, you can talk about this teenager who recently received a double lung transplant due to vaping usage. Let’s make sure our kids understand the dangers of vaping and nicotine addiction.