As a middle school teacher, I see my share of goofy and/or dangerous trends. Kids have needlessly planked across desks, swallowed spoonfuls of cinnamon, and spontaneously burst into Fortnight dances in the middle of class. The most current trend however, vaping, is more common (and dangerous) than you think.
What is it?
Vaping, or e-cigarettes, is a way for adults to break their cigarette habit with replacing tobacco with water vapor. E-cigarettes are battery-powered smokeless devices. Both products contain nicotine, and both products are equally addictive.
The products go by a variety of names and sold in many different shapes. Most commonly, parts of Juul pens look like small USB drives.
Because vaping is “just water,” it is perceived as being safer… but the facts behind that differ.
Just how dangerous is it?
Young people who vape are more likely to become nicotine dependent and turn into smokers.
Different products contain varying amounts of nicotine. For some, one pen holds as much nicotine as an entire pack of cigarettes.
Though cigarette smoking is now less common, vaping is on the rise. Big Tobacco is even getting into the vaping business creating their own products and disposable e-cigarettes. As it is a business, the market always needs new customers – and those are our children.
Are our middle schoolers really exposed to vaping?
The product itself is appealing to kids. The flavors are sweet. Some even carry the name “treat.”
Vaping liquid is most often referred to as “juice.” One available flavor is Unicorn Frappe. Its box has a cartoon unicorn and rainbow are that absolutely eye catching and attractive to kids. Other flavors include cotton candy, mango, and mint chocolate.
Social media also plays a part in our kids’ perceptions of vaping. Influencers are paid online to demonstrate products adding a cool factor to the product. Users do smoke tricks with the vapor or pose in stylish clothes and locations using the product. Try searching for “vapingtricks” on Instagram. The message is simply, “Yes, the cool kids are doing it.”
How do our kids get it?
It *should* be pretty difficult for kids to get the products on their own. Rules and regulations are meant to keep vape stores and other retailers pretty honest with fines and penalties for underage sales.
Realistically, addiction loves company. Older kids buy middle schoolers their pens and liquid. So family friends, friends from school, and other “big kids” are able to buy and hand off the product.
What can I do as a parent?
First, educate yourself. Websites like the CDC and WebMD, have excellent resources for parents and kids about vaping. Studies and statistics show that adolescent brains react differently that adults to nicotine use. These resources can also also give you clues into spotting vaping use. They include dry mouth, sweet smells without evidence of candy, and nose bleeds.
Second, you can have “the talk” about cigarettes, nicotine and vaping with your child. Try to keep it more of a conversation than a lecture. Lay out your expectations for them. If they know where you stand on the issue, they may be less likely to try it.
And finally, on the advice of a real school resource officer, know that you are their parent and its your job to look out for them. That means you have the right to look through their things if you think something is wrong.