Two of my children started high school this past fall. I was surprised to learn that there is only one bathroom on campus that one of my kids feels comfortable using because all others are consistently filled with kids vaping (using an e-cigarette). So, I decided to do some research to learn more about the dangers of vaping.
First, what are vaping and e-cigarettes? E-cigarettes are battery-powered devices that feature a glowing tip and a heating element that turns liquid nicotine and other flavorings into a cloud of vapor that users inhale. The nicotine in e-cigarettes, like regular cigarettes, is addictive. Since most of the products contain nicotine, e-cigarettes are considered tobacco products. Besides nicotine, e-cigarettes can contain harmful products such as: ultrafine particles that can be inhaled deep into the lungs, flavorants such as diacetyl (a chemical linked to serious lung disease), volatile organic compounds, and heavy metals such as nickel, tin, and lead. Vaping is the act of smoking, or inhaling the vapor, from an e-cigarette type device. Unfortunately, many kids put marijuana, instead of tobacco, in their vaping devices.
E-cigarettes are very popular among young people. Their use has grown dramatically in the last five years. Today, more high school students are using e-cigarettes than regular cigarettes, and the use of e-cigarettes is higher among high school students than adults.
According to WebMD, teenagers who use e-cigarettes expose themselves to cancer-causing toxins, particularly if they choose fruit-flavored products, according to a new study. Urine tests revealed an elevated level of five different toxins in the bodies of teens who vape. Additionally, all of the toxins are known or suspected carcinogens, said lead researcher Dr. Mark Rubinstein, a professor of pediatrics with the University of California, San Francisco. Teens who vaped, had up to three times greater amounts of toxins in their urine than teens who never vape, the research study found.
So, why are our children vaping? “One of the reasons why more teens are using these products is they feel that they are safe and/or safer than smoking,” Rubinstein said. According to some teens I personally know, they think other kids are vaping because it looks, “cool.” This doesn’t come as a surprise because, it appears, tobacco companies are specifically targeting teens when marketing their products. JUUL, a San Francisco based consumer product company, has produced a vaping device that resembles a flash drive. The product has become so ubiquitous students have turned the word Juul into a verb. If you want to test this at home, just ask your kids if they know anyone who “Juul’s” or is into “Juuling.” Tasting like fruit or mint, these devices produce little telltale plume, making it possible for some students to vape even in class. They can pin them on to their shirt collar or bra strap and lean over and take a hit and it’s possible no one would know. Below I pasted one of their advertisements. No wonder our children are drawn to trying these very fashionable looking devices.
Teens who use e-cigarettes may be twice as likely to smoke pot as their peers who never try vaping, a U.S. study suggests. The results, from surveys of more than 10,000 youth ages 12 to 17, add to earlier evidence suggesting that e-cigarettes may be a gateway to smoking tobacco and experimenting with drugs. In the current study, younger teens aged 12 to 14 were 2.7 times more likely to smoke pot once they tried vaping, while the odds of marijuana use were 1.6 times higher for older adolescents who used e-cigarettes. While the study wasn’t designed to prove whether or how vaping might directly lead to marijuana use, it’s easy to see how one bad habit might lead to another, said lead study author Hongying Dai of Children’s Mercy Hospital and the University of Missouri-Kansas City. “The brain is still developing during the teen years, nicotine exposure might lead to changes in the central nervous system that predispose teens to dependence on other drugs of abuse,” Dai said. One concern with the link between e-cigarettes and marijuana use is that teens might use the devices to vape marijuana, which could lead them to become addicted to a stronger and more potent form of marijuana, Dai said.
A separate study in Pediatrics highlights another unintended risk of e-cigarettes – that young children might drink the liquid nicotine used in the devices. Nicotine is much more concentrated in e-liquids than it is in traditional cigarettes, and it can also be sweetened with flavors like strawberry, vanilla, and chocolate that may smell and taste appealing to young kids. Poisonings among kids under six years old surged from 2012 to 2015, when more than 10 children in every 100,000 in the population ingested liquid nicotine, the study found.
Another major danger of vaping includes accidental explosions that have been known to occur. See the video in the attached link of a man who had his teeth knocked out and a hole ripped in his tongue due to a vaping explosion: https://wnep.com/2016/05/19/vaping-explosion-knocks-out-mans-teeth-rips-hole-in-tongue/. Device battery problems, poor user maintenance, and other user errors can cause such explosions.
The Scottsdale Unified School District, one of our many school districts in the valley, specifically addresses vaping in the section entitled “Drug and Alcohol Use by Students,” in their Uniform Code of Conduct. First, “drugs” are defined as: “any potentially mind-altering substance or substance capable of producing a change in behavior, and also includes, without limitation, the following substances.” Next, the Code addresses vaping and states: “Any vapor releasing substance containing a toxic substance, as defined in A.R.S.§13–3401(38), except such vapor releasing substances properly used under the direct supervision of a District employee in connection with a school-related activity.” Finally, the Code outlines the consequences including, “Students who violate this policy shall be subject to disciplinary actions in accordance with the Uniform Code of Student Conduct. In addition, students who violate this policy may be subject to prosecution in accordance with the provisions of law.”
So, what type of legal consequences could children that vape face? Students who are found to have violated the law can face a host of consequences. For vaping tobacco which is considered a status offense, the student will likely be referred to the Probation Department in the county in which they live. Consequences they are possible include, but are not limited to: writing an essay, taking weekend classes, performing community service hours, and/or receiving a financial penalty. Also, status offenses do end up on a child’s criminal record. Those who vape with marijuana can be charged with a criminal offense. Aside from the punishments listed above, students charged in juvenile court can also face time in detention, be required to drug test, and of course, the misdemeanor or felony would be on their criminal record.
So, how do we deal with our children now that we know some of the dangers of vaping? Like most other issues, communication is key. We need to ensure that our children are aware of the facts about the potential dangers of vaping. Begin a conversation and listen to them. Find out what they know and don’t know and be the one to education them with the correct facts. Share your concerns and above all else, make sure they know that you will support them.