My head is still buzzing with information about vaping, e-cigarettes and JUULing after attending a fact-filled seminar a few weeks ago, co-hosted by Parents in Action and Hallways at the Collegiate School.
Let’s start with a simple explanation: E-cigarettes appeared more than 10 years ago, marketed as an alternative to cigarettes and a way to kick the habit. Vaping is the inhaling and exhaling of the vapor produced by an e-cig or similar device, like a JUUL. The craze over the JUUL, (a discreet, easily hidden device similar to a thumb drive, charged via USB and capable of heating liquid pods containing “vape juice”) is a concern for schools and parents. Not only can you vape the various pod flavors with harmless-sounding names like Crème Brulee, Watermelon, Cucumber and Bourbon Carmel, but tobacco and THC oil (the active ingredient in marijuana) may be loaded into the device as well.
What about the smell? Practically none. Kids apparently blow smoke in school bathrooms or into their hoodies at their desks and it goes undetected.
And just like the wearable Bluetooth-enabled tech clothing, there is an explosion of vape wearables called Vaprwear. Their tagline is “It’s Gear With A Higher Purpose”! (Pictured: hoodie with vaping strings)
The statistics are staggering. According to Forbes, in 2015, the vape/e-cig market brought in $3.7 billion! About 500 brands of vaping products exist, in 7,000 flavors. And, the trend is geo-targeted, even to my Upper East Side enclave, where smoke and vape shops are easy to spot on practically every corner.
For a mere $49.99, and a quick click affirming I am 18 or older, I could be the proud owner of a JUUL starter kit, complete with the device and four flavored pods.
A five-second Amazon search of vape juice delivered a sponsored ad listing of “Bstean Syringe with Blunt Tip Needles and Caps for Refilling and Measuring E-juice, E-Liquids, E-cigs, Adhesives, Vape, Oil or Glue Applicator (Pack of 20)” for a mere $7.99. Really? Syringes and needles are so easily attainable?
Although these vaping products are marketed as a healthy alternative to smoking cigarettes, the jury is definitely still out. According to a CBSNews report, researchers from John Hopkins University found e-cigs contained unsafe levels of lead, chromium, manganese, and/or nickel.
Preliminary research shows that vaping can be linked to gum disease, mouth sores and bleeding in the mouth and throat. And who knows what these vapors are doing to the lungs?
So, what is a parent of a teenager to do?
When my daughter was young and saw someone smoking, she’d often say loudly “Ugh, cigarette smoking is gross! Why would someone choose to do something so disgusting?” I used to laugh to myself thinking, just wait until you get older, I wonder if you’ll think it’s so disgusting then.
Full disclosure: when I was a teen, my friends and I tried smoking cigarettes. We thought we looked way cooler than we were. I never became a smoker, but, sadly, some of my friends did.
I will try to be realistic. I don’t want to be naïve and assume she’ll never experiment. The perils and risks out there for a teen are not limited to vaping; it’s just one of the many threats that I hope she’ll avoid.
So to start, as this NY Times article recommends, I will ask her perspective, listen, share my concerns, concede my limits of power, and hope that she channels her young self and decides vaping is as gross as cigarettes.
For more information on vaping, please see Melanie Well’s article: “Vaping: Essential Information and Strategies for Protecting Youth”