In years past, parents, teachers and pediatricians often faced the challenge of encouraging teens to avoid smoking cigarettes — or helping them quit if they started smoking. Now that challenge has taken a different form, as e-cigarette use, or vaping, has become the growing trend among today’s teenagers.
Some kids (and even parents) feel that vaping is acceptable because they believe it is not as dangerous as smoking cigarettes. But the reality is that it still poses many risks to teenage health and development.
The Rise of Vaping Among Teens
E-cigarettes are battery-powered devices that heat a liquid into a vapor that is then inhaled by the user. Just like cigarettes, the vapor contains nicotine, an addictive chemical, though they can also contain marijuana or other substances.
According to data from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in 2019, the statistics related to e-cigarette use in teens is alarming. In the NIH survey, 37 percent of 12th graders reported that they had vaped in the last year, up from 28 percent in the previous year. When looking at a younger age group, 32 percent of 10th graders and almost 18 percent of 8th graders in the survey also reported that they had vaped in the previous year. Across the board, e-cigarette use among teens is at record numbers.
The Risks of Vaping
Some e-cigarette users defend their habit by stating that it’s safer than smoking regular cigarettes. While the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says that e-cigarettes expose users to fewer harmful chemical than cigarettes, they also note that they are far from safe. In addition, the long-term impacts of e-cigarette use are not fully known at this stage.
Among the potential risks of vaping to teens are addiction to nicotine, which has been shown to harm the adolescent brain with prolonged use. In addition, many teens who start vaping often go on to use regular cigarettes or other drugs. When teens vape, they are inhaling not only nicotine, but a variety of other chemicals. The long-term impact of inhaling these additional substances is also not known.
What’s more, the e-cigarette devices themselves can be dangerous. Defective e-cigarette batteries have led to some injuries due to fires or explosions. Some families have had to call poison control centers due to e-cigarette use in children, some of whom are younger than 5 years old.
How to Help Your Teen Quit
If you’re trying to help a teenager quit vaping or prevent them from doing it in the first place, the CDC says there are a few tools at your disposal to help in this effort. Here are some strategies that can help your teen quit:
- Talk about it. As with most challenges with your teenagers, it’s important to talk to them and make sure they are aware of the health risks related to vaping. Make sure they can be open with you about their exposure to vaping in their peer groups, so you can reinforce the risks and assist them in making better decisions.
- Seek professional help. It can also help your child to hear about the risks from a doctor or another health professional, particularly if they have begun experimenting with vaping.
- Make sure the school is on board. Your school should have anti-tobacco policies and actively discourage the use of e-cigarettes among students. Feel free to talk to your school administrators about the steps they are taking to help with this.
- Maintain a smoke-free home. Of course, one of the most important steps to keep your kids from vaping is to have a smoke-free home yourself. If you or other adults in the house smoke or vape, now is the time to commit to quitting your own smoking or vaping habit.