Teen vaping on the rise, talk to your kids about vaping risks
When Shane Watson posted a picture of a storm with the hashtag clouds, he was surprised to see more responses than ever before. People had posted their own pictures of clouds – vaping clouds.
“If kids are following social media, they will constantly see it in their feed, and it’s easy to convince themselves that everyone is doing this,” said Watson, prevention specialist at the nonprofit, notMYkid. “Vaping is portrayed as hip and popular with devices that are made to look tech savvy. We need to balance out information from social media.”
The e-cigarettes that were marketed as a smoking cessation tool for adults has become the latest fad for kids who are increasingly vaping fruit-flavored nicotine that can harm the parts of their brain that affect memory, attention and learning. Some of the liquid pods contain as much nicotine as a pack of cigarettes, and often kids have no idea what they are inhaling, said Watson.
The Arizona Department of Health Services joined the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Surgeon General in declaring vape use among youth an epidemic of major public health concern, according to Wayne Tormala, chief of the Department’s Bureau of Chronic Disease and Health Promotion.
The Department of Health Services recently launched its campaign, Facts over Flavor, to educate teens about the risks of using e-cigarettes, which can deliver heavy concentrations of nicotine into their lungs as well as ultrafine particles, cancer-causing chemicals and heavy metals like lead.
“In launching our campaign, Arizona has taken a lead role among states,” Tormala said. “We aim to educate both youth and their parents that vaping can cause kids to get addicted to nicotine, make them more likely to smoke and potentially lead to a lifetime of negative health effects.”
In Arizona, more than half of high schoolers have tried e-cigarettes, electronic devices that heat a liquid and produce an aerosol in the air. National surveys found that one in five high school students and one in 20 middle school students are using e-cigarettes that look like pens and flash drives.
Watson, who leads educational workshops at notMYkid, said parents need to learn about vaping so they can answer their kids’ questions and have a dialogue with them. “It’s about allowing them to talk and feel like they are being heard and also explaining the risks in a way that’s not a lecture,” he said.
These kinds of dialogues have become routine for Adam Kohnen at Chaparral High School in Scottsdale, where he was assistant principal for the past two years.
“It’s an epidemic. Every high school and middle school in the country are having this problem,” Kohnen said. “The sad thing is kids don’t know how bad it is for your health because it’s so new. They think it’s okay because it’s not cigarettes.”
The Department of Health Services offers tips on how to talk with your kids about vaping, including first educating yourself about vaping devices and risks, talking to your child as early as possible, explaining the facts and maintaining a dialogue over the years.
If your child is vaping:
- Call the Arizona Smokers’ Helpline (ASHLine) at 1-800-55-66-222 for resources and support to help your child quit.
- Get advice on how to quit. Download a quit app and more from SmokefreeTeen.
- Talk to your child’s doctor about ways to quit.
The award-winning, nationally recognized Arizona Department of Health Services is responsible for leading Arizona’s public health system including responding to disease outbreaks, licensing health and childcare facilities, operating the Arizona State Hospital and improving the overall health and wellness of all Arizonans.
Signs your child may be vaping:
- Unexplained smells (fruit, mint, etc.)
- Increased thirst or nosebleeds
- Caffeine sensitivity/avoiding caffeine
- Unexplained handheld devices (some resemble a pen or flash drive)
- Unexplained batteries, chargers, e-juice bottles or other vape parts
Source: notMYkid, a Phoenix-area nonprofit