Teens and Vaping
With over 3.6 million teen vape users in 2018 alone, the e-cigarette business is booming at an incredible pace. Out-distancing even Facebook at reaching the 10 Billion dollar mark in the same time frame. So what is vaping and how can it affect your child or teen? Most importantly what can you do if you think your teen may have an addiction or problem with nicotine?
Vaping is often seen as a smoking alternative
Often seen as a smoking alternative, using electronic cigarettes first originated as a method to quit using traditional tobacco products. An electronic device such as “JUUL” converts a concentrated nicotine-laced liquid into vapors and transfer the nicotine to the body which is activated by a coil mechanism. This is often referred to as “JUULing” and is delivered by systems that include Hookah pens, tank systems, e-cigars, Shisha sticks, and e-pipes.
Vaping seems less severe than cigarettes
A dangerous draw comes to youth through targeted marketing that portrays vaping as fashionable and cool. Packaging and “dessert” or “candy” flavored vaping liquids, sometimes called “pods” or “mods”, often present the products as “less severe” while hiding a litany of sometimes even fatal consequences of their own.
It can be hard to tell if your teen is vaping
When coupled with discreet delivery systems it can often be quite difficult to be sure your teen is even using vaping products. A variety of delivery systems are easy to confuse with USB storage drives being only a couple of inches long. Many of the vaping pens or e-cigs and their liquid nicotine are easily obtainable from the internet bypassing the brick and mortar requirement of age verification for this adult-only tobacco product. As with many age-restricted products, underage users are able to steal and or convince legal buyers to purchase it for them.
Why is nicotine addiction such a problem in teens?
In Utah, the rate of traditional cigarette usage has actually decreased in the last few years but has been replaced with higher vaping usage. Approximately one in five seniors have tried vaping.
The growth and development of the brain essentially cease around the age of twenty-five. Up untiljk this point, the mesolimbic system is more sensitive towards rewards and stimuli. As a primal area of the brain, the mesolimbic system is also part of the brain that preserves life in food consumption and sex drives. Because the use of nicotine can actually increase the neuro-receptors the longer it’s used, the dopamine perk is especially hard to resist.
Teens can be very unaware of the addictive nature of nicotine when disguised in pleasant tastes and aromas and accompanied by a dopamine reward. Marketed under the guise of being less severe with a “no tar” selling point, producers fail to relay the other hazards associated with this addicting habit. With one JUUL pod or Mod containing up to twenty cigarettes worth of nicotine.
Physical consequences of vaping
One of the most observed side effects of vaping is the inability to focus. When the need to concentrate on tasks at hand such as school testing, the desire for a nicotine hit can interrupt cognitive function to a high degree.
Teens that engage in vaping have been found to have high levels of carcinogenic compounds in urine samples. Lung irritation and cardiovascular (circulatory) issues were also present. Students in competitive sports saw an increase in heart rate and blood pressure and a noted decrease in performance over the long term. Damage to the vital immune system has also been observed as a side effect of vaping.
Vaping addictions are true nicotine addictions and need to be treated as such. In turn teens and children who see indulging in vaping as relatively harmless have been surveyed and found to be less guarded around traditional cigarettes and often succumb to the multitude of toxins and health hazards that follow tobacco use. Severe lung disease can result from combining both addictive behaviors.
The ultimate consequence
Because of the stimulating nature of nicotine, blood pressure and heart rate can go to lethal levels when combining vaping with other stimulants like high caffeine drinks or illegal substances.
Often the market is frequented with illicitly manufactured vaping cartridges or “vape juice” many times laced with THC or CBD. Several deaths have occurred from these substance mixtures.
Not only can this “juice” be lethal to those who inhale it, but to those who can get it in their systems. Improperly stored JUUL pods can get into the hands of young children who are attracted by the enticing flavors and scents. Deaths have been reported with consumption of vape juice in toddlers under five with as little as one teaspoon being fatal to a twenty-six-pound child.
Learn to recognize subtle signs of vaping
Learning to recognize subtle signs of vaping addiction in teens can be as simple as being alert.
Trouble concentrating as stated above is one of the prime signs of a vaping addiction. Poor class performance where students are required to stay seated can push the line for a teen itchy to get to a concealed location to vape. Tests have shown nicotine to increase cerebral cortex connections and interfere with cognitive abilities.
Anxiety or panic attacks can indicate a heavy dependence upon the substance and the inability to get a hold of it.
Depression can signal withdrawals as the brain’s structure and function change with decreased dopamine production.
Depression, in turn, can push trouble sleeping into the forefront with a snowball of effects trailing after.
Primary and secondary effects can also turn into irritability and frustration. Increased appetite and weight gain can result as well.
Even the simple act of seeing someone vaping and other environmental cues can create almost irresistible desires for nicotine products.
Keep an open dialogue with your teen
With this information in mind, aim to keep a dialog open with your child. More results will be reached when presented in a questioning format, such as asking what your child knows about the product and what they think of it. Pushing hard and fast opinions, or condemning statements will often cause a child to operate more covertly.
We're here to help
If you need help talking to your child about teen vaping use or addiction, Utah’s Lifeline For Youth is only a phone call away. Evaluations and positive planning can help your child from succumbing to life long habits and consequences. Call Today for more information.