Straight talk about vaping for parents

Teen girl vapingCandy-flavored vapes, cleverly disguised devices and ads marketing e-cigarettes directly to teens … It’s easy to see why vaping has skyrocketed among teens recently. Today about one in five high school students ‘vape,’ or use e-cigarettes that heat liquids to produce aerosol that users inhale into their lungs.

HOBI researchers Ramzi Salloum, Ph.D., and Lindsay Thompson, M.D., who published a patient page on vaping in the Feb. 22 issue of JAMA Pediatrics, clear up some common misconceptions that many parents and teens may have about vaping.

MYTH: Vaping is safer than smoking cigarettes.  

FACT: Although vaped aerosols have fewer toxic and cancer-causing chemicals than cigarette smoke, the aerosol from vaping contains nicotine, the same highly addictive substance found in cigarettes. What’s more, when nicotine liquid is heated to high temperatures, dangerous chemicals form, including formaldehyde. Last year, vaping caused an outbreak of severe lung injuries linked to vitamin E acetate, which is found in vaping devices used to smoke tetrahydrocannabinol, the psychoactive ingredient in cannabis. More recently, a study found that vaping in teens was linked to infection with the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus responsible for COVID-19. The virus spreads through repeated touching of the mouth and face, which is common when vaping. Sharing vaping devices, another common practice, can also spread COVID-19 if the devices are contaminated with the coronavirus from an infected person.

MYTH: Vaping helps people stop smoking, so teens who vape are less likely to start smoking cigarettes.

FACT: Although some adults may use vaping to quit a nicotine addiction, youth often start with vaping and graduate to cigarettes later. Vaping is likely to keep young people hooked for years.

MYTH: I’ll know right away if my child is vaping.

FACT: Unlike cigarettes, which come in standard shapes and have a distinct smell, e-cigarettes are harder to detect. Some vaping devices look like everyday objects such as USB drives, watches, pens, and markers. Keep an eye out for parts such as refill pods that contain the vape juice, atomizers, batteries, and chargers. Most children prefer sweet-flavored vapes. Catching fruit or candylike smells could be evidence of vaping. Vaping also makes users’ mouths dry, causing your teen to drink more than usual. If your child is an athlete and starts having trouble breathing, it also could be due to vaping. Other signs of vaping include nosebleeds, unexplained cough, throat clearing, mouth sores, increased irritability or mood swings.

MYTH: There’s not much I can do to prevent my child from vaping.

FACT: Although it is likely that school-aged children may have already been exposed to youth-targeted vaping ads and your child may know someone who vapes, it’s never too late to intervene. Talk to your child early about vaping and share the facts about the harmful chemicals that people breathe in when they vape. Share resources that are easy to understand, such as the links listed below. You should also continue to talk to your child about other people who vape at their school and how they feel about it.

MYTH: My child can quit vaping any time.

FACT: Quitting vaping is just as hard as quitting smoking. If you think your teen may be addicted to vaping, ask your pediatrician about getting counseling from an addiction specialist and discuss the medications used to treat nicotine addiction.

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