Vaping — the act of inhaling a vapor produced by a handheld, electronic device, such as an e-cigarette — has been popular in the United States for more than a decade.
During that time, the popularity of vaping among teens has skyrocketed. Currently, more than 3.6 million middle– and high schoolers use e-cigarettes, a situation reaching “epidemic proportions,” according to the Federal Drug Administration.
In Indiana, rates are on the rise, too. The 2018 Indiana Youth Survey found that student electronic vaping had significantly increased, with nearly three times more kids in grades 7 to 12 reporting vaping monthly. Why are so many kids turning to e-cigarettes?
One reason is targeted advertising, says Jon Agley, deputy director at the Institute for Research on Addictive Behavior at Indiana University. According to Agley, studies show that exposure to e-cigarette advertising corresponds with an increased likelihood of use. Juul and other e-cigarette manufacturers promote heavily on social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat. This creates “a powerful marketing tool,” says Kayla Hsu, community outreach coordinator for the IU Simon Cancer Center’s Tobacco Treatment Program.
E-cigarette manufacturers also push the fantasy that vaping is a healthy alternative to cigarettes, Agley says. Kids end up believing that cigarettes, alcohol and marijuana are more harmful than e-cigarettes. They are also enticed by the many fun flavored e-cigarette pods available, including s’mores, bubble gum and berry.
Not only are e-cigarettes not healthy, but they can result in nicotine addiction, just like with regular cigarettes.
“[E-cigarettes] get kids addicted to nicotine,” Hsu says. “After continual use, kids’ developing brains are tricked into believing that they need nicotine for survival.”
So, what can parents do? First, educate yourself about e-cigarettes. Then, talk to your kids about the addictive nature of vaping.
Most importantly, keep an open dialog with your kids. If your kids have tried e-cigarettes, let them tell you why they wanted to try them, because knowing why they did is key to helping them stop. Then, try to tackle the myths that surround vaping. Educate your kids about the long-term risks, so that they can tell the difference between what’s real and what the manufacturers are telling them.