By Amanda Haney, LSW
According to the CDC, electronic cigarettes or vapes have been the most used tobacco product by youths since 2014. Many teens believe that partaking in e-cigarettes or vapes is “no big deal.” Due to this perception, the use of e-cigarettes or vapes amongst teens is rising.
Vape products work by heating a liquid until it becomes a vapor, which is then inhaled. The liquid that is being inhaled can contain oils, marijuana, and most commonly, nicotine. In 2021, the CDC reported that one out of 35 middle school students and one out of every nine high school students reported using an e-cigarette or vape in the past 30 days.
According to childmind.org, addiction is different for teens. This is due to the way a teenage brain develops, which makes teens more susceptible to addiction and poor decision making. Nicotine found in vape products can harm the developing adolescent brain.
Many e-cigarette smokers and vape users believe the use of vaping products is a safer alternative to other forms of tobacco use and will help them quit using tobacco. However, the use of e-cigarettes or vaping products is highly addictive, and some studies have shown they can be more difficult to quit than traditional cigarettes. This is due to the increased amount of nicotine in the e-cigarette or vape.
There are many factors that can lead to a teen’s decision to use an e-cigarette or vape. They may see loved ones or friends using. Companies tend to design packaging to enhance the appeal of vaping for teens with different flavors and varieties. Additionally, vaping products are cheaper and easier to acquire than traditional tobacco products. Vaping is also easier to hide from authority figures than traditional cigarettes.
There are several health risks that have been attributed to the use of e-cigarettes or vapes. Some of these are addiction, anxiety and depression, acid reflux, sleep problems, increase in thirst due to dehydration of the mouth and throat, chronic cough, nosebleeds, exposure to cancer-causing chemicals, chronic bronchitis, and lung damage that can be life threatening.
Additionally, the use of e-cigarettes and vaping products is known to increase heart rate and blood pressure, leading to increased circulatory problems. The long-term effects of e-cigarettes and vapes are still being studied.
The main action parents can take to prevent nicotine addiction is to communicate with teens about why e-cigarettes and vapes are dangerous. Provide a safe space for your child to discuss their feelings when it comes to their use of these products. Give them language to combat peer pressure and help them say, “No thank you” when offered.
Help your child understand their triggers when it comes to vape use and talk about alternative coping skills your teen can use when they are feeling stressed or having cravings. Provide them with the support and help they may need to prevent or overcome nicotine dependence and address other mental health needs.