Vaping was once considered a safe alternative to smoking, but the truth is becoming more apparent. Vaping is addictive, comes with many health consequences and can trigger the pathways that lead to addiction, leaving the user vulnerable to more serious drug addiction.
Pods for vaping are marketed with bright colors and fun flavors all wrapped in a high-tech device that looks like a flash drive. And e-cigarettes and vaping are on the rise with more than 2.1 million high school and middle school students using. And to make matter worse, at least 57 deaths and more than 2,600 cases of lung injuries related to vaping have been reported by the CDC.
Teens are especially at risk because their brains are still growing and can be more easily impacted by addictive substances. The nicotine in e-cigarettes is especially harmful to developing brains and can lead to problems with learning, memory and attention.
Know the Risks
Vaping is not safer than cigarette smoking, as it was once promoted to be. In fact, the risks include the following:
- Vaping juice is high in nicotine; in fact, one vaping pod contains the same amount as one pack of cigarettes
- Nicotine increase anxiety
- Some ingredients are known to cause cancer, while studies find increased carcinogens (cancer causing agents) in the urine of teens who vape
- Vaping damages lung tissue, similar to cigarette smoking
- E-cigarettes and vaping are highly addictive
- Vaping increases blood pressure and heart rate, likely leading to future circulatory problems
- Those who vape experience drops in energy
- Vape juice affects the brain, leading to addiction and possible memory problems
The risks of vaping are not fully understood; however, they still exist. Along with the physical problems come behavioral risks. Addiction becomes more of a risk with vaping teen addiction because the child’s brain is still developing. Young brains are quick to form new connections, which is how they learn. But in the case of vaping, this attribute makes it easier for the teen to become addicted.
As the teen brain is not fully developed, they lack adult decision-making skills and impulse control. Exposing the brain to nicotine at an early age leads to problems besides addiction, including mood swings, impulsive behavior, attention disorders and learning problems.
Many teens don’t realize that vaping juice contains a high amount nicotine. Many kids use up to three pods per day, so put themselves at risk for numerous health problems due to the other chemical ingredients of vape juice. Some examples of these chemicals are diacetyl, which is linked to lung disease and benzene, which is normally found in heavy metals and car exhaust.
Talk to Teens About Vaping
Talking to any teenager can be challenging, but talking to a teen who is addicted might prove even more difficult. But it is important to find a way, so as to counteract the misinformation from peers and lack of information provided by vaping companies.
Some experts suggest beginning by asking your teen if kids at school are vaping. But don’t expect your teen to respond positively right away, especially if they are already addicted. Incorporating the following points may help enlighten them:
- Vaping is not a safe alternative to smoking because the water vapor contains more chemicals and metals than they advertise
- Nicotine causes the release of the brain chemical dopamine, which can stimulate addiction pathways
- Nicotine is a neurotoxin, or poison that can intensify anxiety
If your teen has already started vaping, try not to panic. It is still possible to have an open and honest discussion. You might want to begin by asking them why they started vaping, and whether or not they know about the risks involved. You can also share your concerns and explain how worried you are about their health. It is important to be understanding and avoid judgement, so that your teen feels comfortable talking to you.
Get the conversation going in a gentle and non-confrontational way. Let them know you support them no matter what, and offer help. Nicotine and vaping teen addiction can be overcome with a little knowledge and patience.
Take a Stand Against Vaping and For Treatment, If Necessary
Make your strong position against vaping known before your child is in 6th grade. Do this in casual conversations as well as formal discussions. Share the facts about vaping and make a big deal about the health dangers.
Make it clear that abstinence from vaping, smoking, drugs and alcohol is very important to you. Talk about it as an expectation for your teens and tie it into trust and their future. Acknowledge that many teens fall into peer pressure or risky behaviors they see on social media. Make it clear that certain privileges are contingent on their continued and verified abstinence from high risk behaviors, vaping, drugs and alcohol.
Just as you may link certain privileges with grades and manners, do the same with abstinence from vaping, drinking and drugs. Talk about your willingness to administer a drug test if there is any indication. This tells them how important it is to you that they don’t go down that path. A strong and sustained attitude about abstinence, honest and open communication through middle school and high school is extremely effective. Also, keep your teen busy doing productive things. Idle time and lack of structure can put a teen at high risk.
If you have concerns about high-risk behavior you see in your teen, BoardPrep offers a comprehensive personalized clinical assessment for teens and an outpatient program, as indicated. A phone call to 866.796.4720 can help you decide if BoardPrep may be a good path for your family.