Teens and Vaping
E-cigarettes, or vape pens, have become very popular among high school students in the past several years. In Connecticut, more than one in four high school students use e-cigarettes, in spite of efforts to decrease vaping among minors. The minimum age to purchase tobacco products and e-cigarettes in Connecticut was changed from 18 to 21 in 2019.
E-cigarettes are battery-operated devices that heat a liquid which usually contains nicotine and other flavoring and additives. Vaping is inhaling the aerosol or vapor produced by the heat. E-cigarettes are now the most commonly used form of tobacco and nicotine, and are just as addictive as regular cigarettes.
In addition, e-cigarettes can contain harmful ingredients such as ultrafine particles that can be inhaled deep into the lungs, chemical flavorings that are linked to lung disease, and heavy metals such as nickel, tin and lead. The health effects of repeated exposure to these compounds is currently unknown.
E-cigarettes may resemble regular cigarettes, cigars, pens, or even USB memory sticks. There are many brands on the market, and a variety of flavors available which make them attractive to young people. Unfortunately many teens and adults are under the mistaken impression that e-cigarettes are not as harmful or addictive as regular cigarettes. Hash oil or other THC-extracts are also commonly used in e-cigarettes, which can lead to addiction and health problems in teens. Both nicotine and marijuana affect the developing teen brain and can impact personality, learning, and attention.
What to Do if Your Child is Vaping
You can influence your child’s decision to use e-cigarettes, even if you have struggled with tobacco addiction yourself. Learn about e-cigarettes and when you have a conversation with your teen, explain why e-cigarettes are harmful and the high potential for addiction, whether to nicotine or to cannabis. It’s important to be patient, calm, and listen. Try to get an idea of why they’re vaping; are they feeling stressed at school, hanging out with a different peer group, or just experimenting?
You might also suggest that your teen talk with other trusted adults who are aware of the risks of vaping and who can reinforce your views. These supportive adults can help reinforce your message as a parent. Ask your teen about ways you can support them to quit. Many communities have free nicotine cessation and addiction recovery programs and resources.