I like to think of myself as relatively in the loop on what the “kids these days” are up to. Not because I have children old enough to be considered part of that group, but because I am passionate about and stay pretty current on art, media, technology, fashion, and culture. YouTube, Tumblr, Snapchat, Instagram? I’m on. Listening to music by Drake, BROCKHAMPTON, or Cardi B? I like it like that. Want to discuss the teen vaping epidemic that has physicians all over the country so concerned? Uhm . . . wait, I think I know what a vape is, but teen epidemic?!!
Yes, I’ll admit it, my knowledge of vaping, and particularly teen vaping was seriously lacking.
When someone brought it up not too long ago, I couldn’t with confidence communicate my opinions on what parents should do about the “vaping epidemic” that has so many worried about youth in Colorado . . . because I honestly didn’t know the facts about vaping. Sure, I’d been around plenty of people with devices I knew to be classified as e-cigarettes, vape pens, or hookah pens . . . but I didn’t know what they really were, what the risks were, and how youth in Colorado were responding to these smokeless tobacco products. I didn’t know what I would say to my son or daughter, if they asked me about them, because I found myself uninformed.
To be completely honest, I wasn’t even sure what vaping devices look like, because there seem to be SO many.
So, like basically every mom with a smartphone, I immediately started searching for information on vaping. I began my research at TobaccoFreeCO.org – I wanted information that was accurate and local, so I could understand how Colorado youth in particular are being affected. The information on TobaccoFreeCo.org was not only interesting, but also helpful for parents – there were educational resources, research links, and data about vaping in Colorado young people. I’ll be honest . . . I was shocked. I mean, we live in Colorado, arguably the healthiest state in the country. I couldn’t believe it when I read that use of vaping, even right here in Colorado is up. I couldn’t believe that 45% of high school students have tried vaping, and around 25% are regular users. It made me wonder how many times I’d been around a vape pen and not even realized it.
I needed to back up though, I first needed to be able to answer a few questions about vaping . . .
- What in the world is vaping anyway?
According to TobaccoFreeCO.org, Vaping is the act of inhaling a vaporized liquid from an electronic device. The vapor commonly contains nicotine, flavoring and other additives. It also can contain THC, the chemical in marijuana that makes the user feel “high.”
- But still, so what? Is vaping dangerous?
Would you be surprised to hear that the liquid inhaled when vaping may contain toxins, potentially cancerous agents and dangerous chemicals, like diacetyl, which is known to cause a fatal lung disease called popcorn lung.
- What about when teens just vape flavors without nicotine or THC? Can teens get addicted to these?
Despite the claim that some a vape doesn’t always contain tobacco or THC, 100 percent of JUULs – teens’ top choice for vaping devices – contain nicotine. And each JUUL pod contains the same amount of nicotine as a whole pack of cigarettes. Plus, studies have shown that most vaping products labeled “nicotine free” actually contain nicotine. For teens who don’t want to become addicted to nicotine, the safest option is not to vape at all.
- Isn’t the vape product regulated? How harmful can they be?
There are over 450 different types of vape products and no universal standards for product design, ingredients and safety features.
Oh yeah . . . and many vape products are owned by big tobacco companies, who aren’t particularly famous for their prioritization of safety over sales. If we don’t at least suspect that these companies are strategically targeting teens right here in Colorado to get them to try vaping, I think we’re being naive.
Before doing my research, I knew use was common, but that was about all I was sure of when it came to e-cigarettes and vaping. After reading through the this data and other studies about teen vaping, I realize that the most important thing I can do is to continue to communicate with my children about tobacco use, especially smokeless, as it can seem so much less harmful. I know that it’s important that I understand what vape devices look like, and that I have clear expectations set with my children, so can I help them make the best and most informed choices.
This post is part of a paid partnership with the Colorado Department of Health and Environment, and the team at DMMB is thankful for the opportunity to learn and share more about vaping among Colorado youth. For more information and resources on vaping and how to talk to your kids, please visit: https://www.tobaccofreeco.org/know-the-facts/