In 2018, one in five teenagers said they had tried vapes or e-cigarettes. Since these devices produce smoke that’s similar to cigarette smoke, it’s understandable that teachers and parents might be concerned. Is this trend just a new way of smoking? Is Vaping Bad for You (Should Teachers Be Concerned)?
Teens and Vaping: Should You Be Worried?
You see them pulling out colorful devices and walking through clouds of billowy, cereal-scented vapors. Vapes have become the hottest new trend among teenagers, and schools are now talking about an “epidemic” of e-cigarettes.
How Do You Vape?
In order to vape, the user needs a device and some vape juice. The device heats the juice and turns it into vapor. The user then inhales the vapor and exhales it. This simulates the act of smoking and provides a satisfying taste experience.
Vape juices typically contain a base of propylene glycol, vegetable glycerin or both. Juices comes in thousands of flavors that range from those that taste like tobacco to those that taste like gummy bears, fruit juices, blueberry waffles, lemon pie, chocolate milkshakes, strawberry shortcake, freshly squeezed juice and so on.
What Are the Dangers of Vaping?
The Centers for Disease Control warn that frequent use of these devices can have negative effects on teenagers.
- Some teenagers get addicted to the habit of using vapes.
- Teenagers can use their devices to smoke cannabis oils.
- Studies have found that many teenagers who try vapes also try regular cigarettes.
- Addiction to any substance or habit lessens a teen’s quality of life.
Nicotine Is Dangerous and Addictive
Health experts worry that teenagers who use these devices are using them instead of cigarettes. Addiction is a serious worry, and nobody wants teenagers getting hooked on
Because adults use vape devices to quit smoking, they frequently use vape juices with that contain nicotine. A report from the National Institutes on Drug Abuse found that 60% of teenagers don’t use nicotine when they vape.
Are the Claims About the Dangers of Vaping a Lot of Hot Air?
Some health experts view these dire warnings with skepticism, however, noting that the dangers of vaping are insignificant compared to the dangers of smoking, drinking or taking drugs.
Here are five reasons some sources say we should dial down the alarms on teens and vaping.
Despite the warnings from anti-smoking groups, scientific studies have found that using vapes is far safer than smoking cigarettes.
While U.S. organizations are still wary to promote vapes as an alternative to smoking, other countries have no hesitation in doing just that. They rely on studies finding enormous health benefits if smokers switch to vaping.
2. It’s Considered Much Safer Than Drugs or Alcohol
We’re all familiar with the horrors of the drug epidemic that is taking thousands of young lives every year. Our deadliest drugs are cigarettes and alcohol. These legal drugs cause far more death and devastation than illegal drugs.
3. It’s Not the Nicotine, It’s the Smoke
Nicotine is the substance in tobacco that makes it addictive. What makes smoking deadly, however, is the inhalation of smoke. When people have a good way to get nicotine without burning tobacco, they can give up smoking.
That’s the thinking behind new approaches to smoking cessation. As the Scientific American noted in a recent article, “Psychologists and tobacco-addiction specialists, including some in world-leading laboratories in Britain, think it’s now time to distinguish clearly between nicotine and smoking. The evidence shows smoking is the killer, not nicotine.”
4. The Majority of Teens Don’t Use Nicotine
Fear of nicotine doesn’t apply to teens, since most of them don’t use it. Vape juices come in varying levels of nicotine. Users can select “0 nicotine,” and that’s what most teenagers do.
A major study in the scientific journal Tobacco Control noted that, “The overwhelming majority of teens who experiment with vaping, about two-thirds of them, use only the flavored juices that contain absolutely no nicotine, marijuana or other drugs. The findings ‘suggest that the recent rise in adolescent vaporizer use does not necessarily indicate a nicotine epidemic.”
5. It’s Seen as a Safe Way to Rebel
The vape habit appeals to teenagers for a number of reasons:
- They have fun buying and comparing different devices.
- They can accessorize their devices to match their outfits.
- The vape juices come in flavors that appeal to teenagers.
- Vape brands often use names and packaging that recall childhood games, movies and snacks.
- It’s a way to act rebellious without risking the real dangers of cigarettes, alcohol or drugs.
Using vapes gives teenagers a way to act out without the damage caused by other, more risky behaviors.
As recently as September 2, 2019, there’s been one reported death due to vaping, and over 215 cases reported throughout 25 states in the U.S.
While doctors know some of the products that these young people had been using, they do not yet know what has caused the severe reactions.
- difficulty breathing
- chest pain
The most serious cases have experienced extensive lung damage. In some cases, the damage is expected to be permanent.
There are two behaviors that are thought to be contributing to the problem:
- refilling empty cartridges with homemade concoctions, including a variety of hazardous ingredients.
- altering e-cigarette products
In this story, Kevin Burns, CEO of Juul Labs Inc., was quoted as saying, “Don’s Vape. Don’t use Juul. Don’t start using nicotine if you don’t have a pre-existing relationship with nicotine. Don’t use the product. You are not our target consumer.”
In addition to the growing cases of lung damage, there have also been 127 cases of seizures being attributed to the use of vaping. These cases are being investigated by the FDA.
There’s More Reason to be Wary
Remember the liquid solvents propylene glycol (which is derived from petroleum products) and vegetable glycerin, (which is extracted from soy, coconut, and palm oils) we mentioned earlier? There’s concern that heating these ingredients can cause problems too.
One example mentioned is a situation that came to light in 2002.
Soy bean oil and flavorings heated in a microwave popcorn factory produced visible aerosols, and vapors. The workers who were continuously exposed to these aerosols and vapors developed broncholiolitis obliterans, which is popularly referred to as “popcorn lung.” It causes scarring of the lungs and there is no cure. You can read more about it here.
Minimize the Problems of Teens and Vaping at School
Since we know the juices contain chemicals, the long-term effects are unknown, and potentially life-threatening, the popularity of e-cigarettes provides an opportunity to talk with teens.
If your school is full of teens who are vaping, you can minimize the impact of this habit.
1. Control the Clouds
Let’s start with the easy, common courtesy point first. Teachers and other students don’t want to walk through piles of pancake-scented and fruity vapor clouds all the time. Schools should not permit vape users to light up in class. They should also instruct vapers to be courteous about where they blow their clouds.
2. Don’t Allow Nicotine or Marijuana
If they haven’t already, schools should ban the use of any juice that contains nicotine, marijuana or cannabis oils. Since it’s difficult to know what type of juice a teenager is using, a blanket ban may be the only option.
3. Talk About Addiction
We’ve already written about cell phone addiction among teens. Addiction to anything is not good for teenagers. Talk to them about the dangers of real cigarettes and the dangers of being controlled by addiction.
3. Discuss Legal Issues
Sales of vape devices are restricted to people 21 and over. Where are teens buying their devices and juices? Talk to them about the possibility of legal trouble if they’re caught illegally buying them.
The Long-Term Effects Are Still Unknown
We don’t yet know the long-term physical effects of using vapes and e-cigarettes. We likely won’t for quite a while. At the same time, teenagers don’t seem willing to give up this new habit.
As teachers, we can help manage the risks. Become as knowledgeable about the issue as you can, and talk honestly with your students about the facts and risks.
Let Me Know in the Comments Below!
Have you had any up-close and personal experiences with vaping? If you’re a teacher, how prevalent is Juul use in your school? How are you, your colleagues, and your administration dealing with this newest concern?
Please let me know how this current situation is impacting you and your school.
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