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Vaping and kids: What Parents need to know

Monday, September 17, 2018 Leave a Comment

Image courtesy of Teen Life
You've seen teens and adults vaping all around Denver, but what exactly is it? Is it safe? What is a JUUL? What do we as parents need to know?

Vaping is the act of inhaling a vaporized liquid from an electronic device. There's a common myth that says vaping is safe because "it's just harmless water vapor." It's actually not. According to Tobacco Free Colorado, there are hundreds of different vape products, which may include a range of ingredients including nicotine, chemical additives, flavorings, and THC, the active ingredient in marijuana. Vape e-juice can lead to health problems including wheezing, coughing, sinus infections, nosebleeds, shortness of breath, and asthma.

Sadly, Colorado youth are vaping nicotine at twice the national average and at the highest rate of 37 states surveyed, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. No public health agency endorses vaping as a safe behavior. Let me repeat that. No public health agency endorses vaping as a safe behavior. 

For one thing, kids who start vaping are four times more likely to start smoking traditional cigarettes a year later. Scary, right?

The top choice for teens to vape is called a JUUL (pronounced "jewel"), which looks like a small USB battery charger or flash drive. This makes it hard to tell if a teen has or is using a JUUL since they're well camouflaged in today's digital world. It’s worth noting that 100 percent of JUULs contain nicotine, and each JUUL pod contains the same amount of nicotine as a whole pack of cigarettes.

Vaping also doesn't have the same strong odor that is often a giveaway for parents and teachers. Vaping is so discreet, in fact, that students have been known to vape during class.

The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment wants to reduce the amount of teen vaping in our state and is asking for parents' help.

Colorado recently released the results from its 2017 Healthy Kids Colorado Survey, and here are the facts:

  • About half of Colorado high school students have tried vaping nicotine, even though Vape devices and paraphernalia cannot legally be sold to or used by anyone under the age of 18 (and some places, including Aspen, have raised the legal age to buy any tobacco products, including vape devices, to age 21).
  • Only 7 percent of high school students currently smoke cigarettes, yet 27 percent said they vape nicotine.
  • The statewide school survey shows 87 percent of Colorado high school students think cigarette smoking is risky, but only 50 percent think those risks apply to vaping nicotine.
  • Nicotine has a negative effect on adolescent brain development, causing lasting cognitive and behavioral impairments, including effects on working memory and attention.
So what can we as parents, coaches, teachers, and concerned adults do? Research shows adults can have a big influence on teen behavior.

There's some great advice on how to talk to teens on Tobacco Free Colorado's website. Here are a few tips - click here for more.

  1. Listen - Make them feel heard. Consider their opinions and keep the conversation going. Even if you’ve talked about this topic before, their issues and opinions change all the time. Plus, as youth get older, they can feel more pressure from friends and classmates.
  2. Set Clear Rules - Make family, school and sports team rules clear and stick to them. Let them know what will happen if they don’t follow them.
  3. Focus on Positive Messages - Encourage them to make choices that help them achieve their goals.
  4. Remind Them They're Role Models For Other Youth - Let them know that younger students and siblings look up to them as examples. How would they feel if a younger sibling got addicted to vaping?
  5. Not Everyone Is Doing It - It is easier for youth to say “no” to peer pressure if they know not everyone is doing it. Let them know that more than half of high school and middle school students have never vaped, so they’re in good company.
The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment created fantastic materials to help parents and askable adults understand the risks of vaping and prepare us to have informed conversations with our teens and pre-teens about it.

The materials are available on the new Tobacco Free Colorado website at TobaccoFreeCO.org/know-the-facts/, and include:
Learn more from Dr. Tista Ghosh, Deputy Chief Medical Officer, Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment:

Together, we can keep our kids healthy and safe!