Sep 14

Vaping and E-Cigarette Use Has Become A Youth Epidemic

Vaping and E-cigarette use has quickly become the hottest trend for youth and young adults, after exploding onto the scene only a few short years ago. These smoking products, which were originally created to help adults cease their smoking habits by slowly reducing their tobacco and nicotine consumption, have now evolved into a growing youth market.

YouTube videos depicting vaping competitions and smoke tricks are just one of the various marketing strategies targeted at impressionable youth. Pens and flavor cartridges come packed with sweet flavors that resemble candy, fruits, and other youth favorites in an effort to attract users. Very frequently, these products contain small traces of nicotine that can lead to addiction at an early age. In some cases, even pens that display “nicotine free” on their label have tested positive for small traces of nicotine, causing youth to unknowingly ingest a highly addictive substance and increasing their tolerance. Many of these products are available online and with just the click of a button, a child can claim they are over 18 and receive a pen in the mail within a few days.

It is believed that these products are healthier or safer than traditional cigarettes but vape pens and e -cigarettes come packed with their own health concerns. While many adults and youth view vaping as harmless and simply inhaling water vapor into their lungs, vaping devices can contain various additives including heavy metals, ultrafine particles, and other ingredients that can contain toxins and cancer-causing carcinogens. Nicotine is known to cause extensive damage to the cardiovascular system that can lead to hypertension and heart attacks, as well as affect brain development and functioning in young people. Nanoparticles emitted from vape pens causes inflammation that has been linked to asthma, stroke, heart disease, and diabetes.

E-cigarette and vape pen use has become a common practice in our own community and has developed into a significant issue for our local schools. According to the 2016-2017 California Healthy Kids Survey conducted at South Tahoe Middle and High schools, 22% of 11th grade students have used an electronic cigarette or vape pen four or more times in the past 30 days. Although they are not allowed on school campus, as they are considered drug paraphernalia, last year alone there were 46 vaping related incidents at the middle school and one out of every three suspensions at the high school involved vape pens.  Nicotine is not the only substance that can be utilized in vape pens, as cannabis was also found in e-cigarette and vape pens through liquid hash oil, wax or “dabs”, and simply dried bud.

Parents should be aware of the signs and symptoms of e-cigarette and vape pen use in their children and openly communicate with them about the dangers. Several things to look out for if you suspect your child is using vape pens or e-cigarettes are whiffs of fruity or sweet scents as vapor does not linger long or have a strong smell, conspicuous “pens” that are not really writing tools, and USB or thumb drives that look suspicious as the popular JUUL vape pen has strong similarities. Other physical symptoms include nose bleeds, dry skin and increase water consumption as vaping contains propylene glycol, which holds water molecules in their environment causing dryness. It is also important to pay attention to signs of nicotine withdrawal such as mood swings, fatigue, and headaches.