No one could have predicted the difficult times 2020 would bring. With the Coronavirus pandemic now in its third wave, people everywhere are taking extra precautions to keep themselves and their families safe.
Experts believe that because the Coronavirus can cause respiratory infections, those who smoke or vape may be at a higher risk of complications if they contract the virus. If you haven’t already, now is the time to get informed about vaping, and be prepared to start a conversation about it with your family if the need arises.
What is Vaping?
Vaping is a type of e-cigarette. In a vape, a battery heats up a liquid that produces vapors, which can then be inhaled. Many of the tanks, which hold the liquid, contain nicotine. Vapes can also be used with marijuana, hash oil, or other potentially harmful substances. Although there are laws in place preventing the sale of e-cigarettes to adolescents, there has been an increase in the popularity of vaping among young people. About 37% of 12th graders reported vaping in 2018, compared with 28% in 2017.
What are the dangers of vaping?
While vaping isn’t new, there is still a lot that is unknown about the negative effects of vaping. Some people tend to think that vaping is safer than smoking cigarettes, but with the liquid cartridges that contain nicotine, it can be just as unsafe.
Nicotine is the addictive substance in tobacco and when inhaled or ingested, it can negatively affect the brain development of youth and adolescents. Cigarette use by teens has been trending down in recent years, but teens who vape are more likely to begin smoking cigarettes in the future.
Studies also suggest that vaping can lead to respiratory or gastrointestinal issues and even some types of cancers. EVALI (e-cigarette or vaping product use-associated lung injury) can also occur. Symptoms of EVALI can include cough, shortness of breath, and chest pains.
Dr. Brendon Stile is an associate attending cardiothoracic surgeon at NewYork-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell Medical Center and an associate professor of cardiothoracic surgery at Weill Cornell Medicine. He speculates that because vaping can lead to inflammation, profound lung disease, and even a malfunction of the immune system in the lungs, those who vape may be more susceptible to pulmonary complications following a Coronavirus infection.
According to the FDA, youth and adolescents who vape are also at risk for seizures. This could be due to the list of toxic chemicals that are in many vape liquids. These chemicals can include:
- Propylene glycol – commonly used in antifreeze, paint solvent, and in fog machines
- Acetaldehyde and formaldehyde – both are carcinogens, which are substances that are known to cause cancer
- Acrolein – a herbicide primarily used to kill weeds
- Diacetyl – a chemical linked to a lung disease called bronchiolitis obliterans aka “popcorn lung”
- Diethylene glycol – a toxic chemical used in antifreeze
- Heavy metals such as nickel, tin, lead
- Cadmium – a toxic metal found in traditional cigarettes
- Benzene – a volatile organic compound (VOC) found in car exhaust
What the CDC Recommends
The CDC’s official recommendation is to avoid using vapes or other e-cigarette products.
The tanks used in vapes are not regulated by the FDA and therefore may contain harmful ingredients other than nicotine.
How Teens Perceive Vaping
Most teens believe that vaping is generally harmless. Some e-cigarette companies, such as JUUL, have been under fire for specifically targeting youth in their ads. Advertisements made multiple false claims that JUUL is safer than cigarettes and that the FDA would approve it soon. They also paid for advertising space on children’s networks, further pushing their message to adolescents.
The product itself also plays into the appeal to youth. Vape pens look harmless and they’re cheap, which makes them less threatening to teens. The tanks of liquid also tend to come in a variety of sweet flavors that smell good, which attracts teens and adolescents. Currently, studies aren’t conclusive as to how vaping among the younger population connects to Coronavirus, but there has been an increase of younger patients who become very sick and require intubation and ventilation.
How to Prevent Your Child from Vaping
The best way to prevent your child from vaping is to foster an environment of open communication with them. Let them know the dangers of vaping in a realistic and honest way that doesn’t rely on slippery slope logic or overt scare tactics.
Be a support system for your child without judgment and they will feel more comfortable talking to you. If they tell you that someone in their class or group has started vaping, don’t freak out. Ask them how they feel about it and talk about the risks in a calm manner, if necessary.
What to Do if Your Child is Vaping
If you discover that your child is vaping, don’t overreact. The first instinct may be anger because you love your child and the anxiety of keeping them safe is stressful. It can also be incredibly frustrating if you have already talked to your child about the risks of vaping. However, your child will shut down if you start the conversation by yelling.
Take a few breaths. When you’re in a calm place, ask your child about vaping. Give them room to talk without trying to fill in their silences. Let them know that they can be honest with you without fear of judgment. If they are honest, keep your promise and don’t judge or yell at them.
Try to avoid lecturing them. Chances are they already know that you disapprove of their actions. Don’t let those feelings cloud your discussion with them.
In your talk, try to determine if they are vaping because of a bigger issue. Maybe they are stressed from schoolwork, their job or they have friends that pressured them. If this is the case, you can work with them to find a solution to their stress or help them gain the confidence to refuse peer pressure.
Teens and adolescents are facing more stress than ever and need our support. If you would like some help trying to navigate parenting in the 21st century, sign up for one of our upcoming Parenting Workshops.
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