Are you young enough to remember what it was like to be a teenager? If you do, you also remember that you were excited about your future, probably worked hard in school to make that dream a reality, and probably did some things you now wish you could take back—like engaging in one or more risky behaviors.
You also remember that when you’re a teenager, you somehow believe that you’re immortal. That’s just one example of the ways in which your judgment wasn’t as developed as it now is.
A New and Alarming Trend: Vaping
In some ways, things haven’t changed that much since your high school years. Teenagers still have dreams, and they still make mistakes. One thing, however, has changed. Today, one of the things teens did that they didn’t do 20 years ago is use e-cigarettes. It’s understandable that they would—after all, advertisers glamorize these products and, what’s worse, make them sound safe. Unequivocally, they’re not safe; in fact, they could pose a real danger to your child.
The trend, called “vaping,” is so widespread and growing that it’s created no small degree of alarm among health professionals and in the media. Witness articles like, “Vaping now an epidemic among US high schoolers,” published by CNN earlier this year, an expose that came with this warning:
“A sharp spike in vaping and the use of e-cigarettes by students has grabbed the attention of the US Food and Drug Administration. The rapid spread of the fad was flagged in a 2016 report from the US surgeon general. It cited a 900% increase in e-cigarette use by high school students from 2011 to 2015, and the 2016 National Youth Tobacco Survey noted that 1.7 million high school students said they had used e-cigarettes in the previous 30 days.”
How Dangerous Is Vaping?
According to Scientific American, that question can be answered in two, simple words: very dangerous. To begin with, smoking (of any kind) remains the leading cause of preventable death in the United States, killing almost 500,000 people every year. As alarming as that statistic is, it’s less than it was 40 or 50 years ago, in large part due to the intervention and educational efforts of the government and multiple nonprofit organization.
Vaping, however, is new, and because it’s new, those kinds of intervention efforts have not yet taken hold, certainly not among the nation’s young people. Add to this the fact that marketers imply in glitzy ads that vaping is a safe alternative to traditional cigarette smoking, and you’ll understand why vaping has taken such a dangerous hold on America’s teens.
Make no mistake about it: although e-cigarettes don’t contain tobacco, they do contain nicotine, a dangerous and addictive drug. A host of studies have demonstrated conclusively that ingestion of nicotine increases the risk of heart disease. E-cigarettes contain, in addition, other dangerous chemicals such as formaldehyde (linked to an increased risk of cancer), silicate particles and lead (a known neurotoxin).
What about Second-Hand Vaping?
One of the ostensible advantages of vaping over traditional smoking is that vaping produces no smoke, and therefore no second-hand smoke. This is true; however, at least found that vaping does increase the concentration of nicotine and silicate particles in the surrounding air—and that might increase the incidence of lung and heart disease among those who are in the same room as vapers, even if they’re not themselves vaping.
What Can Parents Do?
If you discover that your teenage child is vaping (or spending time with other teenagers who are vaping), coming down hard is generally not a good strategy. Again, remember your own teenage years—when your parents pushed too hard, you probably pushed back.
What you can do is monitor their activities and the activities of their friends, ideally by talking with them (calmly) and keeping the lines of communication open. During those discussions, share with your children the dangers of vaping (there’s a reasonably good chance they don’t know). You might, for example, give them some of the pertinent literature on the subject from reputable sources such as WebMD and the U.S. Surgeon General.
The bottom line is this: vaping is not the same as traditional smoking, but it’s no less dangerous. To protect your children from that danger, know who their friends are and how they’re spending their free time, and make a diligent effort to educate them in a non-judgmental way.
At The Tenney School, we care as much about your children’s education and safety as much as you do. It’s one of the reasons our educational approach emphasizes individual attention and one-to-one instruction. To learn more about the ways we work hard to maximize the potential of all our students, contact us today.