Concern is growing among health experts when it comes to vaping and the number of teenagers who are choosing to do it. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, teen vaping rates are on the rise again. Drugwatch.com reports that nearly 20% of teenagers in the state of Alabama admitted to vaping.
Robin Geurs, a certified tobacco treatment specialist at Children’s of Alabama, says that with the return of the school year, this is the perfect time for parents to have a conversation with their children about nicotine and the effects it can have on a child’s body.
“Nicotine affects a young person’s body in a lot of ways that we can see,” said Geurs. “For example, not being able to focus or concentrate at school, irritability, anger, difficulty breathing, and anxiety.”
E-cigarettes, vape pens, and hookahs (water pipes) are filled with tobacco, nicotine, and other harmful chemicals. Health experts say someone can get addicted to nicotine within days of using it. They also say they have seen serious lung damage in people who vape.
“We have about 15 years of research now to back up some of the information we are sharing with patients and their families and students,” said Geurs. “There’s nothing safe about vaping for a young person.”
Geurs says lung damage is not the only problem health experts are seeing; they are also seeing symptoms of emphysema, which is normally seen in older people, and vaping can also affect the brain. Kids might be drawn to smoking or vaping to look cool, act older, lose weight, seem tough, or feel independent. Some signs of vaping may include coughing or wheezing, parents finding e-cigarette supplies or other suspicious items and parents may also recognize new smells, such as fruity or sweet scents. Geurs says parents can help their kids from trying these things by having an open conversation with them.
“It’s important for kids to know there is some support there,” said Geurs. “Keeping a very open line of communication is important. Parents need to provide that safe place for their child to be able to talk to them about these issues.”
Health experts also say parents can ask their kids what they find appealing or unappealing about smoking. They can also encourage their child to participate in other activities that do not allow smoking, such as sports. Also, they can discuss ways to respond to peer pressure.
“We can see that vaping has become normalized. There are a lot of environments that our young people are in where vaping is perceived to be normal, and one may feel like just to be in that environment, they need to be vaping,” said Geurs. “I think coming back to understanding the truth about vaping and really thinking about it, understanding that it is harmful and not a trendy thing that a young person might be involved in.”
Geurs say there are several resources available for parents if they are looking for help to either prevent their children from vaping or stop them. She says one of the first things is to commit to being smoke and vape-free, and this includes in the home and in the car. Another resource is the website smokefree.gov. This website offers free apps and other tools to help someone who is trying to quit smoking. Geurs says another resource is the Truth Initiative’s “This is Quitting” texting program.
“A young person can simply text Vape Free AL to 88709, and they can enroll in a text program that will give them support with triggers,” said Geurs. “They can use this texting program to help them get through the difficult times.”
Health experts say parents should also understand withdrawal. Nicotine addiction leads to very strong cravings, especially in the first few days after stopping. It can lead to headaches, feeling tired, cranky, angry or depressed, trouble concentrating or sleeping, hunger and restlessness. These problems get better as time passes.
For more information on kids and smoking, click here.