Vaping, the act of inhaling an aerosolized liquid from an electronic device (sometimes called an e-cigarette) is the latest trend among today’s teens.
While the tobacco industry claims the devices are intended to help people stop smoking, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recently called out the industry for marketing their products to youth by using kid-friendly flavors and packaging.
Sadly, these marketing strategies seem to have worked. The 2017 Health Kids Colorado Survey found that almost half (44 percent) of El Paso County high school students have tried an e-cigarette, making it the second most tried substance among youth, behind alcohol.
Here are some things you need to know about vaping to help protect your child.
Is vaping dangerous for my child?
While vaping may be a safer alternative to cigarette smoking, “safer” doesn’t mean “safe.” This is especially true for young people.
Vaping has been found to be a predictor of future cigarette smoking. Youth who vape are four times more likely to smoke cigarettes one year later.
The “harmless water vapor” in e-cigarettes contains hundreds of different chemicals including chemical additives, flavorings and nicotine. Nicotine has been shown to have negative impacts on adolescent brain development, including effects on working memory and attention.
How can I tell if my child is vaping?
It is important to note that not all e-cigarettes have a strong odor or cloud that is often a giveaway for parents and teachers. It can be very hard to tell if a teen is vaping because many devices are designed to be discrete, resembling USB flash drives, highlighters, key fobs and more.
Where are youth getting e-cigarettes?
The 2017 Healthy Kids Colorado Survey found that many Colorado teens were able to buy vape-related products at gas stations and online, despite the fact that they were underage. Many teens also reported getting these products from older friends or family members.
What should I do if I find out my child is vaping?
It's important to get informed about vaping before you discuss it with young people. Many youth who vape believe that they’re using a harmless product. They often are unaware that the products contain nicotine and that by using them, they are becoming addicted.
There are many different reasons that young people may start vaping, including peer pressure and stress. Invite your child to talk; be patient and ready to listen. Try to understand their level of knowledge about vaping, what led them to vape and if they are ready to quit.
The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment developed resources for parents and trusted adults to start the conversation about vaping. You can find these resources at www.tobaccofreeco.org/know-the-facts.
What resources are available to help my child quit?
The Colorado QuitLine now serves Coloradans as young as 12 years old who want to quit tobacco or vaping. Youth can receive coaching by visiting www.coquitline.org or by calling 1-800-QUIT-NOW. Coaching is free, confidential and is shown to increase the chances of quit success.
Smoke-Free Teen, a website from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, also provides free quit support for youth, including texting services, a mobile app, trained coaches, and healthy tips to handle stress and social pressure.