Vaping: why kids are getting sucked in.
According to Delaware Division of Public Health studies, E-cigarette use among Delaware adults is at about 4.5%*. But among young students, it is rising at an alarming rate, with those trying e-cigs (commonly called “vaping”) more than doubling from 6.3% in 2012 to 14.3% in 2014*.
* Adult Tobacco Survey and Youth Tobacco Survey conducted for the Division of Public Health’s Tobacco Prevention and Control Program.
In 2015, the news was even more troubling. Among all Delaware high school students, 40.5% said they’ve used an electronic vapor product, either with or without nicotine. Of those students who’ve vaped, 62% say that have at some time tried or used regular cigarettes. And the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) confirms tobacco companies are targeting young vapers more than ever, with national e-cigarette ad spending rising from $6.4 million to $115 million between 2011 to 2014. In addition to tempting youth with candy-flavored products, they are also using marketing techniques that have been used to market regular cigarettes—youth-resonant themes such as rebellion and independence, glamour and sex, celebrity endorsements, and sports and music sponsorships.
In 2014, more than 7 in 10 U.S. middle and high school youth were exposed to e-cigarette ads. Nearly 2 in 5 saw e-cigarette ads online. And more than 1 in 2 were exposed to e-cigarette ads in retail stores.
Until recently, there has been no federal regulation regarding e-cigarette products and related paraphernalia. If your kids are vaping, or thinking about it, you need as much information as possible to dissuade them—from what chemicals and ingredients are really in e-cigarette liquid flavors and vapors to how to talk openly and honestly about the dangers and unknown dangers of vaping.
Delaware has embarked on a multi-media campaign aimed at preventing kids from becoming e-cig guinea pigs. What you learn here can help you understand your child’s temptation to vape and how to address it.
What’s in e-cigarettes?
According to the American Lung Association, there are more than 7,700 flavors of e-cigarettes on the market. Though the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has recently announced that it will regulate e-cigarettes, there are currently no requirements around ingredient disclosure, warning labels or youth access restrictions. No one knows for sure what is in e-cigs, but a 2014 study confirmed that many contain nicotine, an addictive substance that has been shown to negatively impact the development of adolescent brains. Specifically, nicotine can disrupt the formation of brain circuits that control attention, learning and susceptibility to addition.
Studies have also identified toxic chemicals in e-cigarette vapors including:
E-cigarette liquids can poison.
An April 2014 CDC study documented a dramatic increase in e-cigarette-related calls to poison centers. From September 2010 to February 2014, the number of monthly calls to poison centers involving e-cigarette liquids containing nicotine rose from one to 215. More than half involved young children under the age of 5 and 42 percent of the calls involved people aged 20 and older.
Poisoning related to e-cigarettes involves the liquid containing nicotine used in the devices and can occur in three ways: by ingestion, inhalation or absorption through the skin or eyes. E-cigarette liquids pose a threat to small children because they are not required to be childproof, and they come in candy and fruit flavors that are appealing to children.
Signs your child might be vaping.
Unlike the telltale smoke, ashes and odors of tobacco use which are easy to detect, vaping is far less obvious. Some e-cigarette vapors have no scent at all, but many do. Here are some clues that your child or teen might be vaping, courtesy of tobaccosolutions.com, yahoo.com and cafemom.com.
A sweet but unexplained scent.
Produced by flavored e-liquids such as bubblegum, chocolate, watermelon, mint, fruity, dessert or sweet aromas. If you smell something like this, but there are no juice containers or other materials in the vicinity, your child has probably been vaping.
Unusual looking pens.
With holes at both ends and plug-ins for recharging, “vape pens” are often brightly colored and could look like at thumb drive, pen or stylus. If you find a strange pen-like device in your child’s room or in their possession, it’s fairly certain they are vaping.
E-cigarettes require recharging and often require special chargers that come in various designs and sizes. If your child has a charger or e-batteries that cannot be explained, it could be a vape pen charger.
Atomizers turn the liquid inside e-cigarettes into vapor, but they eventually burn out and must be replaced. If you see atomizers in the trash or your child’s room, it clearly indicates vaping.
Coils and cotton.
When refilling a vape pen with e-liquid, materials such as organic cotton, empty plastic vials or thin metal wires or coils may be used. If you come across such items and they cannot be explained satisfactorily, your child is probably vaping.
Propylene glycol is a major ingredient in e-cigarettes. It is also hygroscopic, meaning it attracts and holds water molecules, leading to a state of constant dry mouth for kids who vape.
Dry skin is another common side effect of the water-holding effect of propylene glycol in e-cig vapors including dry nasal passages, which can lead to bloody noses.
Sensitivity to caffeine can develop among some e-cigarette users, causing them to reduce their consumption of sodas or energy drinks. If your child or teen suddenly stops drinking them, it could be a sign they are vaping.
How to talk with your kids.
According to an October 2015 article in U.S. News & World Report, when talking to your teens about vaping, play it casual. You don’t have to ask a direct or judgmental question. The article references Dr. Laura Offutt, founder of Real Talk With Dr. Offutt, a teen health website. "It's more just, 'I've read this, and I'm curious what you've heard about it.' Or, 'Do you know any kids that are using e-cigarettes?' or 'What do your classmates think about e-cigarettes?' It's a nice way to open that conversation."
In the same article, Pediatrician Dr. Pia Fenimore with Lancaster Pediatric Associates in Pennsylvania agrees that parents should keep it open-ended. "You don't want to ask a yes-no question. Because teenagers will look for any chance to answer a question with a yes or no. Then you're really nowhere."
Today's teens are more health-savvy, Fenimore says. "When you tell them nicotine can lead to high blood pressure, fatigue and sudden mood changes, and that it can lead to a lifelong, expensive and health-harming addiction, those [are] things they want to avoid for themselves."
Stress the seriousness of vaping, Fenimore says, as a decision to not just make on a whim, but one with potential consequences of lifelong problems. "It's not like drinking a slushy or some other thing you like just because of the flavor," she says. "This is really a serious drug."
Finally, set the example. If you don't want your kids to vape, don't vape, either. "Children of people that use products like vaping and nicotine products are more likely to use them," Fenimore says. "They are less likely to listen to people like me and their teachers if their parents are sending – whether they mean to or not – that subliminal message of, 'Oh well, it's actually OK.'"