Teen Vaping: What You Need to Know About this Entryway to Smoking
It’s most likely that your teen has been exposed to vaping, offered to try a vape pen, or possibly using it. Nationwide studies across numerous organizations have been conducted over the past five years, showing a 30% increase in vaping among teens. And the latest CDC report states 1 in 4 high schoolers are actively vaping, and 1 in 12 middle schoolers.
This information isn’t meant to scare you but to empower you with information to be aware of teens’ exposure and accessibility to vape pens and vaping.
So let’s start with the basics. What is vaping?
What is Vaping?
Vaping utilizes an electronic device called a vape pen or also known as an e-cigarette, that holds and heats a concentrated liquid that may contain nicotine, marijuana (THC), flavorings, or other unknown chemicals (according to a study by the John Hopkins University).
When heated, the liquid turns into an aerosol that can be inhaled into the lungs and creates billowy clouds of smoke that are not as offensive as regular cigarette smoke because of the flavoring and scents added to the liquid.
Instead of smelling like burning tobacco or marijuana, the liquid used in vape pens can smell like a traditional scent like mint or sweet like cotton candy. And although the FDA banned flavored liquids other than mint or tobacco in 2020, that was only for refillable vape pens. Disposable non-refillable vape pens can still be flavored.
Why Are Vape Pens Considered Less Harmful?
When E-cigarettes and vape pens were first introduced, it was marketed as a healthier alternative to regular cigarettes. While it can contain less than a third of the nicotine compared to a box of cigarettes, there are still serious health risks related to vaping and its long-term effects on the lungs.
Another misconception of the potential health risks is how e-cigarettes or vape pens are designed. The liquid turning into vapor makes it much lighter and smoother to inhale—making the smoking experience easier to form a habit.
But one of the most unassumingly harmful parts of vaping is the added flavors and enticing scents, making it less offensive and more socially acceptable. The ease of inhaling flavored and sweet-smelling vapors with the packaging design and marketing are what make electronic vape pens so appealing to teens.
Vape Pens and Marketing- Do Teens have a Chance?
The popularity of vaping among teens might be relatively new information for parents and adults. Still, for teens, it’s not new to them. They have been encountered by posts and ads on their social media feed.
A white paper case study by Standford University found Juul E-Cigarettes, a company based in California, heavily and intentionally marketed toward the teen demographic. The study analyzed Juul’s marketing campaigns from 2015-to 2018, in which the company posted over 260k posts that included online influencers and trending hashtags.
When the FDA banned refillable flavored vape pens in 2020, that changed the entire marketing and business strategy for Juul. Now only leaving them with two flavors (mint and Tabacco) to market.
However, recently reported on TechCrunch that Juul’s hashtag is trending on TikTok with over 630 million views. But Juul isn’t the only vape pen company out there; there is also Puff Bar, with over 440 million views.
Teens and Vaping- What You Need to Know
According to a national survey conducted by the CDC, over 2 million teens in high school and middle school were estimated to be current e-cigarette or vape pen users in 2021. Of the 2 million participants who admitted to using vape pens, 43% (high schoolers) reported using them less than 30 days ago, and 27% (high schoolers) used them daily. The most popular choice of vape pens used among teens were the disposable non-refillable flavored pens by 87%.
How Are Teens Getting Vape Pens?
Obviously, anyone under 21 can’t purchase a refillable or non-refillable vape pen in stores, but it doesn’t mean teens can’t get their hands on them.
They have connections with older-aged friends or family members who are willing to purchase it for them. They can also buy them on the black market online. It’s not impossible for teens to gain access to these devices.
Thinking you may need more support and navigation around this topic? Check out the Better Yourself Discord community. A cohort of supportive people committing to ending unhealthy habits, like weed dependency.
What are the Dangers of Teen Vaping?
Until the age of 25, the brain is still developing and has a more sensitive rewards system known as the mesolimbic dopamine system. When a teen inhales nicotine or any other substance, it instantly connects to the brain receptors, triggering the neurotransmitters to release dopamine, stimulating the brain as a “reward.”
What if My Teen is Vaping?
If you think there is a chance your teenager might be vaping or could be curious about it, you should have a conversation about vaping. The worst thing you could do is not talk about it and hope they don’t start vaping or make the assumption that your child wouldn’t engage in smoking.
If you plan to talk to your teen, try approaching them with curiosity rather than “preachy” or accusatory. It might feel awkward at first, but that’s completely normal. Think back to when you were their age and how uncomfortable you would be if you had to have this type of conversation with your parents.
Ask them if they know the health risks and possible addictive habits vaping can cause. Their answer might surprise you.
A cross-generation study conducted by Harris Poll for the 2019 Cancer Opinion Survey revealed that 39% of the participants thought e-cigarettes were harmless, and 24% of Gen Z participants were non-addictive and harmless.
Have a conversation with them and learn more together about addiction and the effects it can have on them now and later as adults.
Final Takeaway: Teen Vaping
My hope that reading this article about teen vaping brings more insight and information so you can have conversations with your teenager. See this as an opportunity to learn more about what they know about vaping, if they are curious, tempted to try it, or have done it.
Let’s not allow social media ads or posts from vaping companies or the influence of others to be the first and only touchpoint for vaping with your teen.
Start the conversation today.
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