By Tanni Haas, Ph.D.
While most parents have heard about vaping, many are unsure about the answers to basic questions, like how many kids actually do it and whether or not it’s something they should be concerned about. For that reason, I’ve prepared a brief fact sheet based on the latest scientific research that answers the most common questions parents ask themselves.
20% (1 in 5) of all high school students vape regularly. For middle school students, that number is 5% (1 in 20). Those figures have increased dramatically over the past few years. In 2011, only 1.5% of high school students and less than 1% of middle school students vaped regularly. Put differently: more and more kids are starting to vape, and they are doing so at an alarmingly younger age.
Kids prefer either flavored vaping liquids with nicotine or marijuana. The by far most popular vaping product, Juul, contains a lot of nicotine. Each Jull pod has as much nicotine as one full pack of regular cigarettes. Kids are especially attracted to vaping liquids that taste like alcoholic drinks, chocolate, fruit, menthol, and sweets.
When and Where:
In a word, everywhere and any time they can get away with it. They do it at school – in bathrooms, in hallways, even during class. Many kids admit to exhaling the vapor into their shirts or doing it when the teacher isn’t looking. They also do it at parties where they try each other’s vaping devices and liquids. They host so-called “cloud competitions” where they demonstrate and video each other’s vaping tricks, like blowing smoke rings or creating funnels of smoke that look like tornadoes, and then upload videos to social media, especially YouTube.
The top three reasons kids vape are because 1) it’s cool, 2) they’re bored, and 3) they think it’s completely safe. When asked why they vape, most kids say because it’s considered cool among their friends. They enjoy entertaining their friends with tricks and watching other kids perform tricks on social media. They also do it to escape from boredom: they do it when they can’t come up with anything better to do, just like constantly and mindlessly fidgeting with their phones and checking their texts and social media. Finally, they think it’s harmless and very different from smoking cancer-causing regular cigarettes. More than 70% of middle and high school students have seen online and print advertising making that claim.
Contrary to what kids believe, all vaping devices and liquids are bad for their health, especially those that contain nicotine like Juul. Nicotine is highly addictive and negatively impacts kids’ ability to focus and learn. It also affects their mood and impulse control. Vaping increases kids’ heart rate and blood pressure, causes the same kind of lung irritation like regular cigarettes, and can lead to coughing, wheezing, and shortness of breath. Kids who vape are four times more likely than those who don’t vape to start smoking regular cigarettes. Instead of being a substitute for smoking, as many people think, vaping can actually lead kids to start smoking. Finally, many vaping devices are of poor quality. There have been numerous incidents of exploding devices that have caused burns and other injuries.
Tanni Haas, Ph.D. is a Professor in the Department of Communication Arts, Sciences, and Disorders at the City University of New York – Brooklyn College.
8 Signs That Your Kids May Be Vaping
By Tanni Haas, Ph.D.
Vaping is on the rise. According to the latest figures, an astonishing 20% of all high school students, or one in five students, vape regularly. But how do you know if your kids are among them? Drawing on the insights of reputable institutions such as the Centers for Disease Control, the Child Mind Institute, and the Partnership For Drug-Free Kids, I’ve compiled a list of potential warning signs that parents should be on the look-out for:
When you vape, your mouth and throat get dehydrated, leaving you with a dry palate, aka “cotton mouth.” Kids who vape often start drinking (and peeing) more than usual. Many have dark circles under their eyes, another common sign of dehydration.
Desire For Spicy Food
Everyone needs moisture to taste the flavor of food. When our mouths get dry, we lose the ability to taste flavor. If you notice your kids suddenly want to eat more spicy food, or add more spice to their regular food, it could be a sign that they’ve started to vape. In fact, the more kids vape, the less flavorful food becomes to them. This is known as “vaper’s tongue.”
Vaping not only dries out the mouth and throat, but also the nose. When people vape, they typically exhale through their noses which causes the nasal passages to become dry. This, in turn, often leads to frequent nosebleeds.
Acne and Red Spots
Vaping, especially inhaling vaping liquids that contain nicotine, can also affect the skin. Nicotine ages the skin and slows down the healing of wounds. Kids who vape are more likely to have facial blemishes, including acne and red spots, that last longer and don’t heal easily.
Wheezing, Coughing, and Shortness of Breath
Vaping irritates the lungs and can lead to coughing, wheezing, and shortness of breath. In extreme cases, an inflammation of the lungs can lead to bacterial infection and pneumonia.
If your kids usually enjoy caffeinated drinks, like frappucinos or energy drinks, but suddenly start to avoid them, it could be a sign that they’re vaping. When combined with caffeine, the nicotine in many vaping liquids can make people anxious and irritable and cause severe mood swings. Vapers often give up caffeine to avoid these side effects.
Sweet Aromas In The Air
Since most kids prefer vaping liquids with sweet flavors, one sign that your kids may be vaping is a strange, sweet scent coming from their rooms like bubble gum or fruit punch, but you don’t see any gum wrappers or juice containers lying around. This is also true if you suddenly get a whiff when your kids aren’t home. They could be hiding vaping flavored liquids in the house.
Strange Techie Equipment In Their Rooms
Finally, a sign that your kids may be vaping is if you find unfamiliar, high tech-looking devices or spare parts in their rooms, especially the trash can. This can include things like atomizers, battery chargers, cartridges, flash drives, and metallic coils. Most vaping devices consist of multiple parts that need to be replaced on a regular basis.
Tanni Haas, Ph.D. is a Professor in the Department of Communication Arts, Sciences and Disorders at the City University of New York – Brooklyn College.