Berry Berry Good To Me EJuice. That sounds harmless enough, does it not?
Maui Sun E-Juice by Naked — positively organic and healthful.
Nectosphere E-Juice by Transistor. This could be the name of a hipster cocktail.
These are just a few flavors of e-cigarette “juice” being sold and being vaped, and I wouldn’t even care to write about it, except that for middle school and high school kids, vaping is literally exploding.
These kids are being duped. They think that what they are doing is harmless, and they have taken to vaping like bees to flowers. In the process, they are becoming nicotine addicts.
This kills me. All that hard work to get rid of cigarettes, to crack down on gas stations selling to minors, to make this deadly habit as unglamorous as possible is for naught because now the kids are vaping.
In fact, from 2011 to 2015, the number of high school kids vaping increased 900 percent (that is not a typo—nine hundred percent), according to the U.S. Surgeon General and according to statistics presented at the Vaping: What Parents Need to Know panel discussion the Robert Crown Center for Health Education hosted May 14.
Lance Williams, a Robert Crown Center for Health Education educator, Hinsdale Central High School School Resource Officer Art Holocek and Jim Scarpace of Gateway Foundation, an addiction treatment institution, comprised the panel.
I had heard of vaping, and I have seen adults using e-cigarettes. They are one and the same. Vaping is the act of inhaling and exhaling an aerosol, often referred as a vapor, produced by an e-cigarette or another similar device. Among the devices is something that bears a striking resemblance to a long USB flash drive and is known by the name brand “Juul.”
There are devices that look like small pipes and also ones that resemble pens. Inside the vaping aerosol are ultra fine particles, nicotine, flavoring chemicals, possible cancer-causing chemicals, heavy metals and volatile organic compounds. There is nothing harmless or benign about vaping.
In fact, the experts and the members of the panel do not even think there are any legally sold e-juices out there that do not contain nicotine, so when you hear that middle school kids and high school kids are vaping, they are ingesting nicotine, a substance known to be as addictive as heroin and cocaine.
“But Mom, it’s safer than smoking.” “It’s just flavored water vapor.” “It’s not smoke, and there’s no smoke, so there’s no problem” “Everybody is doing it, even in class.”
There is not one bit of truth in any of those statements, though teens can be sneaky and sometimes get away with vaping in class as I learned. They can definitely get away with vaping at home in a way they could not have with smoking cigarettes. While the vapor is not completely odorless, the smell can fruity and light. You may not notice it.
Vaping has not been around long, only since 2006, and it is currently not really regulated by the FDA, so there is virtually no way to know what the long term effects of vaping are going to be. Today’s users, and especially today’s users who are pre-teens and teens, are the guinea pigs for this new and improved nicotine delivery system. And, vaping does deliver nicotine in much higher doses than cigarettes, according to the panel.
I know how addictive nicotine is. Quitting smoking 10 years ago was one of the hardest things I’ve done in my life. I quit smoking so I could forbid my kids from smoking. Had they smoked, I would have smelled it in the house and on them, but vaping leaves fewer telltale signs.
Much scarier than vaping nicotine in the guise of a fruit juice is that just a small amount of alcohol can be vaped to great effect, and of course, THC — the active, high-making ingredient in cannabis — can be vaped.
“I hit the thing in the bathroom” or “I ripped the pen,” refer to vaping weed, according to a former user I talked to.
When talking to your kids about vaping, scare tactics to do not work, said Lance Williams, the Robert Crown health educator. I have heard Williams speak before at a sex education lecture, and he said the same thing then — “Scare tactics do not work.”
Instead, one of the parents there who clearly had experience with vaping teens, shared what she has found effective: Have a zero tolerance policy, but do understand that someone quitting vaping — or rather, quitting nicotine — is going to go through withdraw.
Teach your kids to say no, and talk to other parents; open kids’ backpacks when they come to your house. Search your child’s room. Vaping oils and liquids do have a light smell, and they are often fruity. Don’t be surprised if you hear “It’s my friend’s” if you find a vaping pen or Juul.
Sara Clarkson is a freelance columnist.