I can vividly remember the public service announcement shown frequently on television in the 1980s with the rugged man holding an egg saying, “This is your brain.” He would quickly crack the egg into a hot skillet, and while watching it immediately start frying (and burning), he would say, “This is your brain on drugs.”
Not only did this commercial keep many teens of the 1980s away from drugs, but it kept us far away from anyone who even remotely looked like they would do drugs.
Recently, I have seen some powerful and effective PSAs about teens and young adults and the negative impacts of cigarette smoking.
But What About Vaping?
The use of e-cigarettes—called “vaping”—seems like a mystery. There are no PSAs about this, and information seems a little scarce about whether or not these little smoky contraptions are dangerous, possibly dangerous, safe or unknown.
E-cigarettes come in different forms and are also commonly called e-cigs, mods, e-hookahs, vape pens and tank systems.
What I do know about vaping is that it’s a booming, billion-dollar industry. If your teen doesn’t vape, they likely know someone their age that does. Sales of e-cigarettes are expected to outgrow tobacco products within a decade. Research shows that use of e-cigarettes among teens is high and a growing trend.
Most teens try vaping purely out of curiosity or because a friend offers it, unlike most adults who use e-cigarettes in an attempt to quit smoking regular cigarettes.
What Parents Should Know About Vaping
My husband and I do not smoke or vape, so I feel like an underinformed parent when it comes to this growing trend. Maybe you’re in the same boat. Here are a few basic “things to know” about vaping:
- E-cigarettes were created to look like and feel like the real thing. The end even glows as the person inhales.
- E-cigarettes/mods are not lit. They’re battery-powered.
- E-cigarettes/mods include a heating element and a cartridge that typically contains the highly addictive drug nicotine and other chemicals and flavorings. The heating element converts the liquid into vapor, which the person inhales; this is absorbed through the lungs when a person vapes.
- E-cigarettes/mods contain no health benefits. However, they don’t contain tobacco, which means users are not inhaling the harmful tar and carbon monoxide of a traditional cigarette.
- E-cigarettes/mods can include a candy flavoring, which appeals to younger users.
- Vaping doesn’t leave a tobacco or smoke smell, so it’s harder for parents to know if their kids are using.
- A person must be 18 to purchase or use vapor products in Nebraska.
Are They Safe?
The big question is: Are they safe?
On December 8, 2016, Surgeon General Vivek Murthy said, “Nicotine-containing products in any form, including e-cigarettes, are not safe. As Surgeon General, and a new father, I’m urging all Americans to take a stand against e-cigarette use by young people.”
Others note that the products haven’t been on the market long enough to determine what the long-term effects are. Because they don’t include tobacco, many health experts see them as a benefit to smokers trying to kick the habit and avoid health problems and diseases caused by using tobacco. But opponents see the addictive nicotine in e-cigarettes as a “gateway drug” that could lead nonsmokers and teens to eventually turn to tobacco.
Others fear that vaping will reach a new “chic” status and negate years of effort and progress to educate the public on the dangers of smoking, which convinced an entire generation to quit or never start smoking.
Vaping typically involves nicotine, which isn’t a good chemical to invite into your system, but the rest of the long-term effects are still a gray area. As a parent, I understand that this puts a little more work into my hands. Not only is it my job to stay aware of what my kids and their peers are doing, it’s also my job to keep aware of what science and research reveals about these new products and their long-term effects on users.
Get Informed from Trusted Sources
Here are a couple resources from the Surgeon General you can use to get the facts and know the risks:
- Know the Risks: E-Cigarettes & Young People
- Surgeon General Calls E-Cigarettes Dangerous to Young People
If you’re trying to kick a smoking habit, there are classes and experts that can help you. Bryan LifePointe offers classes regularly and has one starting January 4, 2017. Learn more at bryanhealth.org/calendar or call 402-481-6300.
K-12 & Teens
Most of my mornings, afternoons, and evenings are spent driving the kids here and there—and then back to here again. Every child is a gift on loan from God. As parents, our job is to raise that child to be an independent adult who can contribute to the world using the gifts and talents he or she was given. It is hands-down the most important job on earth!