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Jan 26

Placer, others see increase in teen vaping

Posted on January 26, 2019 at 12:49 PM by Katie Combs Prichard

Teen “smoking” looks different these days.

Some of us might remember the days past when we’d walk into the bathroom at school to be greeted by a cloud of smoke.

Now, it’s more subtle. As we’ve seen a decline in tobacco use, there’s been an alarming rise in teens’ vaping and e-cigarette use, even just in the last year. More than a third of high school seniors now say they’ve tried vaping, much higher than tobacco. Here in Placer, nearly a quarter of 11th graders reported having used an e-cigarette in 2018 — significantly higher than the number smoking whole cigarettes.

These vaping devices also look much different than the cigarettes that parents might be used to. They are battery-operated devices used to inhale an aerosol, which typically contains nicotine, flavorings and other chemicals. They can resemble traditional tobacco cigarettes – but also everyday items like pens or USB memory sticks, that often fly under the radar. These products are also marketed with attractive flavors like fruits and chocolate, and on youth-populated social media platforms like Snapchat and Instagram.

Many kids, and even parents, are under the misconception that vaping is a safe alternative to tobacco smoke, and that vaping “just flavors” is harmless – but one Juul pod has the nicotine equivalency of a whole pack of cigarettes. And vaping has serious effects on brain development: Nicotine can cause mood disorders, learning problems, reduced impulse control and more. Vaping cannabis comes with more risks, like addiction and mental illness. The concentration of THC is high in vaping devices, as the cannabis is often in distilled wax or oil forms.

Given these trends, it’s important to set a good example and to have open dialogues with your teen about vaping. You don’t have to come at these conversations from a critical lens, and it’s best to avoid lecturing – but you can weave in some questions naturally when you encounter e-cigarettes in person or in advertising. Ask your teen about their perceptions of vaping and if they know people who vape, and talk to them about the risks. If they are vaping, try to understand what appeals to them about it so you’re better equipped to suggest healthier behaviors.

There’s also a lot more information online for parents on the Surgeon General’s website at e-cigarettes.surgeongeneral.gov. I hope you’ll take the time to look it over and think about how you might approach talking to your kids!

Be Well,
Rob

Dr. Rob, Robert Oldham, is Placer County’s public health officer and lives in Roseville. Contact his office at (530-889-7141.