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A New Generation is Getting Hooked on Nicotine

Lidia Harding
For parents Substance Abuse
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The recent 2018 Healthy Youth Survey data on Lake Washington School District students clearly shows that while traditional cigarette use is way down among teens, the “vaping epidemic has reversed decades of progress reducing youth nicotine use.” Between 2016 and 2018 among Lake Washington School District seniors, the use of e-cigarettes and vaping products has increased from 21% to 31%,  representing a 50% increase in the use of these products over two years.

Learn more about vaping and how you can help:

What is vaping?

Vaping is the inhaling of aerosol vapor created by an electronic cigarette (e-cigarette) or other vaping device. E-cigarettes are battery-powered smoking devices. They have cartridges filled with a liquid that usually contains nicotine/marijuana, flavorings, and chemicals. The liquid is heated into an aerosol vapor, which the person inhales.

What do e-cigarettes look like?

Devices include JUULs, e-cigarettes, e-cigs, smokeless cigarettes, vaporizers, vape, vape pens, vapor pens, mods, tanks, cigalikes, e-hookah, and hookah pens. These vary widely in size, shape, and design. Some look like computer flash drives or highlighters, while others are bulky and box-like.

What are the health effects of vaping?

Health experts are reporting serious lung damage in people who use e-cigarettes, including some deaths. Studies have shown that aerosol vapor can contain dangerous toxins, including heavy metals and chemicals known to cause cancer and other diseases.

Most vaping devices contain nicotine, which is highly addictive. Using nicotine is adolescence is particularly damaging, as the adolescent brain is still developing. Using e-cigarettes as an adolescent has been associated with lasting brain impairments, and can affect memory, concentration, learning, self-control, attention, and mood. It also makes the brain more vulnerable to other forms of addiction in the future.

It’s also important to note that e-cigarettes are not required to conform to consistent safety standards. There are over 450 different types of vape products and no universal standards for product design, ingredients, and safety features.

How can you tell if your kid is vaping?

It can be very hard to tell if a teen is vaping. Manufacturers make discreet devices that resemble flash drives, highlighters, pens, and more, but these signs may help:

  • Finding unfamiliar devices
  • Unexplained sweet smell
  • Increased thirst
  • Nosebleeds
  • Severe mood swings
  • Skipping caffeine

What can parents do?

Talk with your kids. You can influence your children’s decision about whether to use e-cigarettes. Even if you have used tobacco yourself, your children will listen if you discuss your struggles with nicotine addiction. Be clear that you don’t approve of them smoking or using e-cigarettes, and that you expect them to live nicotine-free. Use CDC’s Parent Tip Sheet to help you talk with your children. This tip sheet offers facts and practical ways to start conversations with young people about the risks of e-cigarette use.

Share information. E-cigarettes are relatively new products, and many people don’t know much about them. For example, many young people don’t know that most e-cigarettes contain nicotine. Share information about the dangers of vaping with your friends and family so they can learn the facts about e-cigarettes.

What to do if your child is caught vaping?

If your child is caught vaping or admits to vaping, try to stay calm and non-judgemental. This is an excellent opportunity to talk about it and learn why he/she was doing it. Ask questions like, “Tell me more about what led you to vape?” and “What are some of the reasons?” Let them know you are concerned about their vape use progressing but try to encourage them to keep talking by asking open-ended, non-judgemental questions.

If they show interest in quitting you can reach out to YES or visit during Open Access hours (Tuesday & Thursday 12 – 4 p.m.) for an assessment. After the assessment, dually-licensed counselors, licensed in both mental health and substance use treatment, will provide recommendations for next steps.

YES has also partnered with the Lake Washington School District to implement a Nicotine Diversion Program. The program consists of evidence-based assessment, a two-day group session, and ongoing support in 28 elementary, middle and high schools. All counselors who facilitate the program are certified Chemical Dependency Professionals (CDPs), and many are also dually certified as licensed mental health therapists. Parents, teachers, administrators, friends or students themselves can be referred to the program. Please contact your child’s school administration for more information.

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