It’s hard to go anywhere today without seeing someone “vaping” (i.e., using an electronic cigarette), and new vape shops are springing up in droves all over the country. With the increased amount of press that vaping has received, the e-cigarette has shifted gears from being a mere “nicotine delivery device” into a full-blown cultural phenomenon. Not unlike the famous hippie/bohemian/beatnik culture of the 1960s, vape culture has captivated the minds and hearts of the younger crowd due to its novelty, as well as its increasing accessibility. The aesthetics of vaping products don’t help much, either–most e-cigs or hookah pens are decorated with bright, vibrant colors and designs that easily appeal to the tastes of teens and young adults. While the younger audience is not the intended target demographic for vaping products, the Centers for Disease Control published a somewhat alarming report revealing that e-cigarette use among middle and high school students had doubled from 2011 to 2012 alone.
This has raised legitimate concerns among parents, many of whom are unsure of how an e-cigarette works, or what it contains. For the uninitiated, e-cigarettes utilize a small heating element that vaporizes a specially formulated liquid (called “e-liquid” or “e-juice”), which can range from a flavored vegetable glycerin to outright liquid nicotine. This vapor is then inhaled by the user to give a simulated smoking experience, minus the harmful chemicals that are emitted from burnt tobacco. While not all e-liquids contain nicotine, many of them do, and for a concerned parent, this carries a substantial degree of risk due to the potential effects that nicotine can have on an adolescent. According to the CDC, nicotine has been shown to have a negative impact on adolescent brain development, and can possibly lead to nicotine addiction. Another major concern for parents is the potential for e-cigarettes to act as a “gateway” device that could initiate teens into more dangerous products, such as conventional tobacco cigarettes or even marijuana.
So what can a parent do to keep their kid from vaping? Below are three important steps you can take to proactively approach the subject of e-cigarettes with your children.
1. Have a prevention talk.
As a parent, more than likely you have already spoken with your child about the dangers of cigarette smoking, but now with the advent of e-cigarettes, it’s time to have “Prevention Talk 2.0”. You should clearly spell out the family policy (your own set of rules and behavioral expectations) regarding e-cigarette use, as well as what type of consequences may await if the rules are broken. Make sure to explain the potential danger of e-cigarettes to your kids using well-researched facts, so that you can be the main source of information in their minds when it comes to the topic of vaping. It is important to show them that although e cigarette vapor is considered to be safer than the smoke from conventional cigarettes, there are still health risks to consider due to the use of nicotine in many vaping products.
2. Become well-versed in vaping products and accessories.
It truly is a new era. Years ago, the only evidence a parent needed that their kid was smoking was a pack of cigarettes and a lighter, but nowadays e-cigarettes come with all sorts of small contraptions and accessories that you will need to be aware of. In addition to looking for any e-cig or pen-like devices, keep an eye out for chargers, e-liquid bottles, e-cig batteries, atomizers, and other related vaping equipment. One of the best ways to familiarize yourself with these devices is to visit several online vape stores and get a grasp of the terminology as well as the equipment that is commonly used in vaping circles. Since many teens purchase e-cigarettes online, check your family’s Internet browser history and email accounts as well.
3. Check for any telltale signs of vaping.
Vaping is difficult to detect by smell because it is odorless, but many times the flavored e-liquid can give off a fruity, minty or bubble-gum aroma, so if your nose is giving you clues–and there’s no gum or candy wrappers anywhere around–you may need to look a little further into what your kid is doing. Double-check that whatever pens your kid may have are actually ink pens, and not vaping devices (they look very similar). Another common sign is if your kid seems to be thirsty or drinking liquids all the time; the propylene glycol in many e-liquids can produce dry mouth and dehydration. Dry skin is another common side effect as well for that same reason.
While many teens may try to argue that vaping is “safer” than conventional cigarettes, the long-term effects of teen vaping have not yet been fully discovered due to a lack of multiple-decade research studies such as are available with conventional smoking. What is known, however, is that the nicotine in e-liquids can have negative effects on your kid’s brain development, and that is plenty of reason for him/her to steer clear of smoking e-cigarettes.
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