Young people are using vaping devices to consume other substances, too:
- Often known as “dabs,” marijuana is a popular substance to substitute for the vaping liquid sold in stores.
- Vaping marijuana does not produce the telltale smell that accompanies smoking marijuana through a joint, blunt or pipe. By vaping, teens and young adults can use marijuana without being detected.
- When people vape rather than smoke marijuana, they tend to consume higher concentrations of THC, which means greater exposure to the drug’s mind-altering and addictive ingredient.
- Ever heard of Juuling? Juul brand e-cigarettes dominate the market and resemble a flash drive. The small size makes it easy for kids to bring them to school, so they can use the products during the day and not be caught. Juul pods typically contain five percent nicotine.
- Vape pens designed in bright colors can easily be mistaken for writing utensils — hiding in plain sight.
- Popular vape “tricks” teens enjoy include blowing smoke into an “O” shape and exhaling smoke through the nose. Social media sites like Instagram and Snapchat are platforms for online vape-trick competitions and publicizing electronic cigarette use, such as Juuling at school.
The e-cigarette market has exploded in recent years. The business is estimated at 3.5 billion dollars in the United States, and in 2014, e-cigarette manufacturers in the U.S. spent $125 million advertising their products.
E-cigarettes, commonly known as “vapes,” are battery-powered devices that heat a liquid to a boiling point into an aerosol used by the inhaler. The liquid usually has nicotine, which comes from tobacco; flavoring (like cotton candy, fruity cereal, chocolate, or bubble gum); and other additives.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, vaping as a recreational activity has become increasingly more prevalent among teenagers and college students as a way to obtain a brief buzz, similar to the nicotine “high” that cigarettes offer. In fact, e-cigarettes are now the most commonly used tobacco product among youth.
Many high school and college students — and parents, too — think e-cigarette use is relatively harmless, or at least a better option than drinking or using harder substances. There is a perception that e-cigarettes are safer than cigarettes due to a lower concentration of tobacco in the liquid than what would be consumed by smoking a regular cigarette.
According to the Food and Drug Administration, 81% of kids who’ve used tobacco started with a flavored product. And research has found that youth who use a tobacco product, such as e-cigarettes, are more likely to go on to use other tobacco products like cigarettes.
The nicotine contained in many e-cigarettes is not only highly addictive but also places youth health at risk. Because the brain is not fully developed until about the age of 25, exposure to nicotine can cause lasting cognitive and behavioral impairments, such as disrupted development of attention, learning challenges and increased susceptibility to addiction — including addiction to other substances.
According to the latest report of the Surgeon General, e-cigarette use among youth and young adults has become a public health concern. The American College Health Association’s spring 2017 survey showed the percentage of college students with admitted use of e-cigarettes at nearly 10%. The CDC reported that 7.1 percent of college-aged individuals used vapes in 2015 — and this number rose to roughly 16 percent in 2016.
Campus officials around the country are taking note of these trends. Earlier this year, the University of Nebraska joined a growing group of smoke-free college campuses that includes Creighton University, the University of Nebraska at Omaha, Iowa State University and the University of Iowa. At these schools, students and faculty are barred from smoking or using a vaping device anywhere on the campus, including parking lots.
The bottom line? E-cigarettes are not harm-free. It’s important to talk to our kids about the dangers associated with them, and educate them on the risks.
Need tips for having this kind of conversation with your son or daughter? I walk you through it in “How to have ‘The Talk’ about drugs and alcohol with your student.”
Since we posted Jennifer’s story, the New York Times has published two articles that we recommend you read: “The Juul is Too Cool” and “‘I Can’t Stop’: Schools Struggle With Vaping Explosion.”