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Vaping: A Growing Phenomenom

Vaping has grown in popularity. What you need to know.

As children get ready to head back to school, parents and teachers alike continue to focus on what’s best for their kids. With so many distractions to take away from the educational experience, one in particular stands out, vaping (use of e-cigarettes). An electronic cigarette or e-cigarette is a handheld electronic device that simulates the feeling of tobacco smoking. It works by heating a liquid to generate an aerosol, commonly called a "vapor", that the user inhales. A 2016 report from the U.S. Surgeon General found that e-cigarette use grew 900 percent between 2011 and 2015 and that 40 percent of high school students had tried e-cigarettes at least once. Sixteen percent had used e-cigarette products in the prior 30 days

The most important fact to understand about e-cigarettes is they do contain nicotine, and nicotine is highly addictive especially for teenagers. When an immature brain (less than 25 years old) is exposed to nicotine, it takes less of the drug to become addicted. That’s exactly why teens have historically been the target market of tobacco companies, and why current e-cig marketing strategies show hip young people vaping in ads and create kid-centric flavors. One company that stands out, Juul, is accused of this practice.

Juul use has become a popular trend

Juul has developed a device around the size of a typical flash drive with interchangeable “pods” containing the e-liquid and nicotine. A new term, “Juuling”, has been coined as something of a trendy activity for underage users. Without having any smoke (producing vapor), coming in a variety of flavors, and having the ability to easily change out different pods, Juuling is almost undetectable. This makes it easy for students to use these devices in the school bathrooms, hallways or even in the classroom. What’s even more concerning is the amount of nicotine contained in the pods used with these devices. A single pod contains the same amount of nicotine as a pack of cigarettes.

Parents, stay alert

With this knowledge being so vastly available why is it so hard to stop this trend? Many minors have found creative ways to purchase liquid nicotine online and according to a study published in JAMA Pediatrics, 94% can successfully get their e-cigarettes/vaping products delivered to them online. This provides the potential for older students to purchase these items online and then distribute them to the underage users. Some youth, with a little bit of creativity, can even use a prepaid card and some altered personal information to order products for themselves. The rise in popularity of Juuling on social media has also turned this addictive habit into a way to gain notoriety and is helping drive these sales. With this mindset, youth are continuing to use products like Juul without understanding the potential for addiction in the long term. Recent studies have indicated use of these products could actually become a "gateway" to smoking traditional tobacco cigarettes.

What you can do about it

It can be tough to tell a young person something like this is bad for them. The rebellious spirit, popularity on social media, and sense of belonging within a particular clique are just some obstacles. Providing proper education is a great first step in prevention and helping get underage users away from continued use. PSA offersproducts to help you get the conversation started to educate and provide the facts around vaping, e-cigs and hookahs as well as other addictive substances.

Despite the amount of education provided and discussions had, we know our younger generation will still experiment with risky behaviors. The challenge is it’s hard to “catch” your child vaping, because the vapor dissipates quickly and leaves no residue. Parents and teachers are left to wonder what they can do or what clues deserve attention.

Here are a few things you can look for as signs that your child may be vaping:

  • Increased thirst - Vaping is hydroscopic, meaning the process of vaping removes hydration from skin of the mouth and throat. This leaves users with a dry, flat palate. As a natural consequence, the body craves liquids to combat dehydration. If you see your child heavily increasing their liquid consumption (and also peeing more), they may be vaping.
  • Desire for flavor - Moisture is key to enjoying the flavor of foods. When the mouth is dried out, you lose flavor perception. So, with routine vaping, food can become less flavorful. This even has a name: “vaper's tongue.” If your teen is reaching for the salt or enjoying unusually spicy foods, this may be a clue.
  • Nosebleeds - Just like vaping dries the mouth, it dries the skin of the nose as well. When the nose gets dry, it can bleed.
  • Acne - Vaping can affect the surrounding skin. If your teen is having bad breakouts on otherwise controlled skin, this may be a clue.
  • Cutting back on caffeine - If your latte-loving teen is skipping Starbucks, it could be the nicotine. Vaping plus caffeine can cause anxiety and severe mood swings. Most users will decrease their caffeine intake to avoid these side effects.
  • Pneumonia - Research suggests that outside of the problems with nicotine exposure, there are nanoparticles present in e-cig vapor that cause inflammation in the lungs. When lungs get inflamed, it can lead to pockets of bacterial infection and cause pneumonia.
  • Finding unfamiliar tech items: USB drives, battery chargers or spare parts - E-cig devices do have parts and cartridges that need to be exchanged and replaced. Commonly, these parts are spare wires, cotton balls or small containers (“pods”) that contain e-juice. If your teen is carrying an unfamiliar tech-looking device, or if there are interesting items in their trash bin, you may want to question your teen.

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