A plume of vapor escaped the teenager’s mouth as he began to inhale again on his e-cigarette. The taste of vanilla flooded his taste buds as he felt more relaxed and clear-headed.
He looked over to his friends who were also vaping, smiled, and said, “We have to do this more often”.
The use of e-cigarettes by high school students has more than tripled to over 13 percent in the past year according to the Center for Disease Control. E-cigarettes are now the most popular tobacco product used by teens and their use is continuing to increase.
For the uninitiated, e-cigarettes work by having a battery-powered vaporizer that heats up a liquid solution that contains nicotine, propylene glycol, and glycerin. In addition, many liquids include various flavorings such as vanilla, chocolate, or peach. E-cigarettes can look like conventional cigarettes though they also come in many other different colors, shapes, and sizes. When someone is using e-cigarettes, it is often referred to use “vaping”.
The appeal of e-cigarettes for teenagers is that over half believe e-cigarettes are safe but still deliver the rush of nicotine found in other tobacco products. One e-cigarette can contain as much nicotine as a carton of regular cigarettes. A typical e-cigarette cartridge can have 20 milligrams of nicotine in it. A dose as low as 10 milligrams of nicotine can be fatal for a child. This is one reason many health experts have become concerned about e-cigarettes rising popularity among teens.
Another concern is that adolescence is a particularly delicate time in teen’s brain development where introduction of high levels of nicotine can cause lasting harm, particularly by promoting addiction. Teens who become addicted to nicotine may start to steadily increase their vaping as they develop a tolerance and find themselves craving e-cigarettes when they are not vaping. In addition, they will feel more nervous or on edge when not using and find it hard to quit.
E-cigarette usage by teens represents a challenge for parents. It is relatively easy for teens to get a hold of e-cigarettes. Additionally, e-cigarettes are unregulated and many companies target teens with attractive packaging and desirable flavors. Since e-cigarettes emit a vapor versus the smoke of regular cigarettes, it can be hard for parents to tell if their teen has been vaping.
This means that e-cigarettes and vaping are something that parents need to add to their list of topics to talk about with their teenager. Parents can emphasize how quickly nicotine addiction can occur and how hard it can be to quit once started.
Teens are more likely to use e-cigarettes if they have friends or family who use them and approve of their consumption. Therefore, parents should express their disapproval of using these types of products and monitor whether their teen’s friends are vaping or talking about it. Addressing this issue early on can prevent vaping from becoming an issue down the road when it may become a habit that is too hard to quit.
This article was published in the Richmond Register daily Friday on September 4, 2015