Vaping Facts – What All Parents Need to Know

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Are you concerned about the dangers of vaping? It is time to start paying attention. Even if your kids are still in elementary school. Because the number of middle school kids who have tried vaping is growing. Because some vaping products are even aimed at young teens. And because as I write this, vaping is now blamed for 1299 lung illnesses and 29 deaths. But check the latest illness and death figures at this Centers for Disease Control and Prevention page – they are increasing daily.

Here are some important facts all parents need to know about vaping.

What is vaping?

Vaping is using an electronic cigarette (e-cigarette) device to inhale a vapor. The vapor is created by heating a liquid, which can contain nicotine, flavorings, and other chemicals. These devices were originally developed as alternatives to tobacco cigarettes. They were soon repurposed to deliver flavored chemical compounds and even THC, the psychoactive substance in marijuana.

Why do young people vape?

Kids vape for the same reasons they do many other things – it’s cool. They think it makes them look older – it definitely makes them feel older. They can carry around a neat little device. It’s a status symbol.

Vaping provides quicker metabolism of nicotine. Nicotine is highly addictive. So kids become addicted to vaping.

Vaping is easily hidden.

Vaping allows kids a discreet way to ingest THC and other substances.

What do e-cigarettes look like?

E-cigarettes can be long and thin, similar in shape and size to an actual cigarette. Or, the devices can be small enough to fit in the palm of a teenager’s hand. Some look like flash drives. And many, especially Juuls, are covered in colorful, fun wrappers. The combination of fun flavors and colorful packaging are evidence that some companies are actually targeting children to increase the size of the market for their products.

What are the dangers of vaping?

  • Vaping can cause serious illness. Vaping has been blamed for causing lung illness in nearly 1300 people in 49 Sates in the U.S. At least 26 patients have died. Of those who are ill, 70% are male, 22% between 18 and 22 years old, and 16% under the age of 18.
  • No on knows – yet – what it is about vaping that is causing these illnesses. While THC is a suspected factor, no one compound has been related to all illnesses. Which means more information is needed before we will know what exactly is the culprit.
  • Most e-cigarettes contain nicotine. Nicotine is addictive and is suspected to cause negative health effects on brain development in young persons.
  • Using vaping to consume THC exposes young people to the harmful effects of this addictive drug.
  • E-cigarette vapor contains other potentially harmful and carcinogenic substances. Because they are inhaled, they are exhaled as second-hand vapor. Thus the vapor can cause harm to the vaper as well as others who breathe in the second-hand vapor.
  • The liquid used in vaping contains toxins which can cause harm when ingested. Children and adults have been poisoned by swallowing, breathing, or touching this liquid.
  • Unlike cigarettes, e-cigarettes have a long life span and can be used over and over. This gives greater accessibility to users.
  • E-cigarettes have exploded, causing burns and other injuries.
  • Street devices are unregulated and potentially contain even more toxins.
  • For more information on the dangers of vaping, click here for the Surgeon General’s advisory.

Symptoms of vaping-related lung illness

The following flu-like symptoms have been reported in some patients. Seek medical care if your child exhibits these symptoms, especially if you suspect they might be vaping. Read the CDC report and recommendations here

  • Cough, shortness of breath, chest pain

  • Nausea, vomiting, diarrhea

  • Fatigue, fever, abdominal pain

Who is vaping?

This is very alarming news. According to the Surgeon General, there are more high school students vaping than adults. And the number of middle-school-aged children vaping is also on the rise. The number one e-cigarette producer, Juul Labs has been accused of targeting children as young as 8 years old by funding summer camps and visiting schools under the guise of an anti-smoking message.

Many blame the increase in youth vaping on the company Juul Labs. Juul produces vaping devices which are extremely popular among teens and a nightmare for school administrators. Juuls are favored because of their small, easy-to-hide size and their fun flavors like mango and mint. Their quickly dispelling vapor smells more like perfume or cologne than tobacco. And it dissipates quickly- making it easier to hide and all the more alluring.

All these attributes make “juuling” easy to conceal. A quick puff while the teacher is writing on the white-board, or on the bus riding to school provides a quick hit of nicotine, or THC. Schools struggle with how to prohibit kids from carrying and using these devices. Short of TSA-type searches and adult bathroom monitors, it’s a tough problem to solve.

Signs of vaping

Vaping is easier to conceal than smoking. But here are some clues that your child might be vaping:

  • Bloodshot eyes. My daughter is in her first year of high school, but she has seen kids vaping since middle school. She says, and doctors concur, that bloodshot eyes can be a sign of vaping.
  • Increased thirst. Vaping is hydroscopic, which means it dries out the mouth and nose by drawing out hydration. This can lead to a need for more liquids.
  • Nosebleeds. Dried out nasal membranes are more likely to bleed.
  • A sweet odor. Juuls and other flavored devices can emit a scented vapor, which lingers much like the smell of tobacco on someone who smokes.
  • Reduced caffeine intake. Nicotine can cause jitters and anxiety. Youth who vape sometimes cut back on caffeine to compensate.
  • Unfamiliar small objects. E-cigarettes can be small, and contain small parts such as the pods which hold the liquid. If you find unusual looking devices in your young person’s backpack, room, or trash, ask about them.

What can I do about it?

  • Stay informed – keep up with the daily reports about vaping, related lung illness, and regulations. Know your state’s approach to regulation. Some states have outlawed flavored pods. Massachusetts has recently outlawed the sale of all vaping products – a very controversial move.

  • Talk to your schools. Find out what measures they are taking to educate students and prevent vaping.

  • Most important: talk to your kids. Explain the dangers of vaping. Ask them what they know, and are concerned about. Above all, keep the lines of communication open. And if you learn your child is vaping, check out this New York Times article on how to help teenagers quit vaping.

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