American school administrators are starting to face a new, high-tech challenge that is popular among students. “Vaping.” More kids are turning to e-cigarettes as an alternative to smoking tobacco and it has caught the attention of at least one state legislature.
So what should a parent know about e-cigarettes? How concerned should parents be?
With the dangers of cigarette smoking known to be a health hazard, many believe that switching to electronic cigarettes is a healthy choice. Despite the increasing popularity of e-cigs and battery-powered vaporizer pen, businesses are now starting to restrict smokers — even users of e-cigs. San Francisco recently put a policy in place that limits e-cig use to outdoor aways away from the building windows and entrances. Many in the city say the policy is a step in the right direction and others are calling for even more regulations and education about vaporizing pens.
Relatively new, vape pens were first introduced in 2008. The FDA is still unsure of the effects it has on a user’s health. The FDA feels that the pens contain toxic chemicals and should be limited until more research can be completed. One study by the California Department of Public Health found that the liquid used for e-cigs contain approximately 10 chemicals believed to cause cancer. Most users believe that e-cigarettes are less harmful than traditional cigarettes because the tar and odor are missing.
While the scent of vaporizing pens isn’t as obnoxious as regular cigarettes, it can be difficult to walk anywhere without passing a cloud of cigarette smoke or vapor. California State Senator, Mark Leno, introduced a bill that targets the pens. The state bill would ban the smoking devices in the same businesses and areas in which traditional cigarettes are already banned. What people may not know is the pens produce high levels of formaldehyde at high voltages. A study published in the New England Journal of Medicine points out that this is the same chemical to preserve cats and frogs dissected in high school science classes.
Many vapers are former smokers who are looking for a way to feed their nicotine habit without stopping cold turkey. Nicotine patches and gum containing nicotine are good, but they don’t work for everyone. The e-cigs provide the nicotine without some of the other harmful chemicals and deliver it in such a way that is reminiscent of traditional smoking.
Vape pens are growing fast in American culture. There are many reasons they are gaining a following among young people. One is the idea of parents who would rather have their child vaping than smoking cigarettes. The truth is, the jury Is still out. The bigger problem faced by parents is not knowing if the child is vaping nicotine or not. Many of the liquids used in pens carry strong amounts of nicotine. Although technically illegal to sell e-liquids to minors, it is not unusual for the “head” shops to look the other way. Adding to the mystery is the fact that vaping doesn’t produce a strong odor the way tobacco or marijuana does.
Vape pens are also used for burning concentrated THC oil called wax. These “dabs,” as they are also called, have higher amounts of THC than any joint. Vaping wax doesn’t have a smell so parents won’t recognize what is in the pen. Smoking dabs can be more dangerous than smoking a standard joint because of the concentrated THC.
At the end of the day, the surging popularity can be traced to a mix of rebellion, technology and social acceptance. Kids today are vaping for the same reasons that teens have always smoked — the feel of being ‘cool,’ a distraction from boredom and it serves as a vehicle to socialize with others. The designer patterns, flashing lights and techie aspects also lend itself to catching teen’s attention.
If you suspect your child is vaping, the first step is to stay calm.
If being a parent were easy, articles like this wouldn’t be needed. Parenting can be confusing. You’ll make mistakes and that’s ok. The more confident you become as a parent, the more compassionate and effective you will become at helping your kids make smarter and healthier choices.
The next step is to learn all you can about this relatively new phenomenon and then have a heart-to-heart with your child, being sure to let them know where you stand on the issue.