Talk to Your Teen About the Risks of Vaping

Posted on April 2nd, 2015
Posted in Teens

Vaping is all the rage these days, but if you don’t know what that means, you’re not the only one. Vaping refers to the act of “smoking” an e-cigarette. This is a device that is supposed to help smokers quit or allow smokers to get a nicotine fix without all the harm of tobacco smoke. An e-cigarette heats up a liquid with dissolved nicotine. The user inhales nicotine and exhales water vapor, not smoke. It should be safer than cigarettes, but the jury is still out on the other ways in which vaping could be bad for you. Teens may be at greater risk of these harms, and new research is telling us that more of them than ever are using e-cigarettes. 

Stats on Teens and e-Cigarettes

The companies making e-cigarettes have sworn up and down that they don’t market their devices to kids and teens, and yet more and more young people are using them. Official numbers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention say that at least 4.5 percent of teens have vaped in the last month as reported in 2012, but newer research says that number is already way too low.

A study from Hawaii found that at least 29 percent of teens in that state have used e-cigarettes at least once, while 18 percent used one in the previous month. In a similar report from Connecticut, researchers found the corresponding numbers to be 25 percent and 12 percent. Tobacco cigarette use has declined significantly, but it now seems that teens have simply replaced the act of smoking tobacco with vaping. 

Is Vaping Really That Bad?

The original purpose for e-cigarettes was to help smokers quit. The idea was that smokers could get their nicotine fix more safely while weaning themselves from the drug. Now, these devices are more of a permanent substitute. Many people are using them and are not quitting. So if the user of an e-cigarette inhales nicotine only and exhales water vapor, is this trend so bad? More importantly, is it bad for teens?

The problems with teens using e-cigarettes are multiple. First of all, we aren’t certain that there are no ill health effects from vaping. More long-term research needs to be done to learn about these. Second, vaping creates an addiction. Nicotine, even without the cigarette smoke, is a highly addictive, mind-altering drug. No parent wants his or her teen to struggle with a lifelong addiction. Furthermore, research shows that teens who vape are also more likely to smoke traditional cigarettes.

How to Protect Your Teen

If you have a teenager, you need to be concerned about the possibility that he could be vaping. The best prevention and protection is education. Teach your teen about e-cigarettes and regular cigarettes. Make sure that he knows tobacco cigarettes present the leading cause of preventable death in the U.S. and then share with him the risks and the unknowns about vaping e-cigarettes. Talk about the uncertainty of e-cigarette safety and about the definite possibility of addiction to nicotine that goes along with vaping.

As a parent, you have the power to influence your teen’s decisions. It may seem like he doesn’t listen to you, but you are still the top influencer in his life. Most parents don’t talk to their kids about drugs, addiction, smoking or drinking, but for those who do, the results are positive. Teens whose parents talk to them about these difficult subjects make better choices. Start the conversation today.

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