So You Think Your Teen is Vaping

Vaping isn’t just for adults who are trying to quit smoking or reduce the amount of nicotine they intake. It has also become a hugely popular social activity with teens, thanks to the very sleek-looking devices and flavors such as bubble gum, cotton candy, and gummy bear. (They surely know their target customers!)

Because they don’t stink up the place like cigarettes do, it makes it easy for kids to vape in the locker room, bathrooms, or the bus ride home. But is vaping safe? How do you know if your kids are vaping? Read on and find out:

What Is Vaping?

Teens see vaping as a harmless and fun way to socialize. It doesn’t smell bad and is certainly more acceptable than smoking regular cigarettes. Visually, vaping mimics smoking, but it is actually the act of inhaling water vapor through a personal vaporizer that looks like a pen, stylus, or even a thumb drive. The device heats water, the chosen flavor (vape juice), nicotine, and other potentially harmful chemicals to a boiling point, ready for inhaling.

What’s the Harm?

While you can use nicotine-free vape juice, vapers are still exposed to other potentially harmful chemicals like diacetyl.

Researchers at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health tested 51 types of e-cigarettes and vape juice in flavors most appealing to kids. The findings, published in Environmental Health Perspectives, found that 75% of the e-cigarettes and vape juice contained diacetyl.

Diacetycl is linked to a serious, irreversible respiratory condition called bronchiolitis obliterans – more commonly known as “popcorn lung”. It’s an incurable disease that scars tiny air sacs in the lungs, leading to excessive coughing and shortness of breath. (This is the same condition that affected workers who inhaled the artificial butter fumes at microwave popcorn factories.)

Vape Juice on the Teen Body

More studies are needed to understand the long-term effects of vaping on the body. Regardless, vaping concerns are warranted, especially on the teen brain and body. Vaping can result in asthma attacks, decreases immune systems, irritation of the throat, eyes, and nose, coughing, nausea, vomiting, dizziness, and headaches.

Signs Your Teen Is Vaping

With no BIC lighters in sight and no distinct smoke smell, how can you tell if your teen is vaping?

One of the appeals of vaping is that it doesn’t have the nasty odor of cigarettes. However, if you get a sudden whiff of something sweet, like candy/baked goods/a coffee drink, but don’t see any cups from Starbucks or candy wrappers, it could be the aroma of vape juice.

Vaporizers come in many shapes and sizes. Pens, stylus, thumb drives—even medical inhalers are used to disguise the device! If the device has holes on each end, take a closer look.

If your teen is suddenly guzzling water or other beverages, it could be a sign of vaping. Propylene glycol is an ingredient in the vape juice that attracts and holds water molecules, which can mean a constant dry mouth. Dry skin and nose bleeds is another side effect.

Vaping Pot

It’s one thing to be vaping candy flavored vape juice, but pot can also be used in a vaporizer. Vaping pot doesn’t give off pungent odors like smoking pot does. Users can vaporize hash, hash oil (a concentrated resin extract of marijuana), and THC-infused wax. (THC is the active ingredient in pot, and – surprise, surprise– hashes and oils have a higher concentration of THC than dried leaves.)

Effects of Pot on the Teen Brain

You’ve probably read about the recent studies on the teen brain and how it is still developing well past the teens year. When teens start using pot, it can have a significant impact on that brain development.

According to a 2014 Northwestern Medicine study of teen marijuana users, memory-related structures in the brain appeared to shrink. Fewer neural fibers in some parts of the brain and a smaller-than-average hippocampus are also serious effects of marijuana.

Unfortunately, these abnormalities just don’t disappear when a teen calls it quits. The study showed the effects on the brain remained two years after quitting. Further studies showed people who started using pot after the age of 21 did not experience the same type of brain abnormalities, which coincides with the significance of pot use on brain development in teens.

Time for a Sit Down

It’s very easy for a minor to buy vaping products online. Websites have the usual age verification on the website, but any teen can click through that and continue on the site. Tempting candy flavors and cool devices appeal to teens, and social media makes it even more glamorous with celebrities posting their photos and vape juice mixes.

Talk to your kids about resisting vaping. They may not fully understand that it's not as harmless as it seems, but let them know the potential risks of the chemicals they are ingesting and how they could have long-term and unpleasant side effects or serious medical conditions.

What are your thoughts on vaping? Harmless, or scarier than cigarettes? Share with us!

Tags : health   teens   drugs   

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