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E-cigarettes: How to talk to kids about the dangers of vaping

August 30, 2019 08:17 PM

ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WHEC) — A 2019 survey of youth risk behavior in Monroe County revealed that 35 percent of high school-aged children reported using e-cigarettes. This report was released as the CDC investigates why more than 215 people have developed severe pulmonary illness. So health experts have a reminder about the back to school task you may have forgotten - talking to your kids about vaping.

Many young people who use e-cigarettes believe they look cool, the vapor smells good, and they’re a safer alternative to traditional cigarettes.

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However, the sudden mysterious severe pulmonary illnesses that have occurred in 25 states are reminders that we still know little about the short and long-term effects of the largely unregulated products. 

"We're not talking about a little cold or mild bronchitis. We're talking about a significant lung illness that we're still trying to understand," said Dr. Mike Mendoza, Monroe County Commissioner of Public Health.

What's more troubling to health leaders like Dr. Mendoza is that so many users are kids who are now hooked on nicotine.

"Up until the age of 25 their brains are still developing," said Dr, Mendoza. "When we sensitize our brain to this pattern it sets us up, potentially, for addiction down the road."

Making matters more troubling, the juice that creates the vapor is unregulated. 

"We see the list of chemicals and we know that some of them are very toxic," said Dr. Mendoza.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, some commonly used chemicals include diacetyl, which is linked to serious lung disease.

Some e-cig juices also include heavy metals like nickel, tin, and lead.

"But what we don't know is what happens to these chemicals when you heat up the temperature that you need to heat them to in order for them to become a vapor," said Dr. Mendoza.

So before our school year, I outlined my expectations of my three children. We talked about homework, sports, and getting enough sleep. This year, we talked about something else as well – e-cigarettes. We chatted about why they're dangerous for kids and how they might affect their health.

"Is nicotine good for you?” I asked my three children.

“Nope,” they replied in unison.

“It affects your brain,” said my 10-year old son.  

“And then it affects your body,” added my 7-year old daughter.

My 17-year old son told me most of the people he knows have tried vaping or vape regularly.

As a four-time cancer survivor, I've had many discussions with the kids about the dangers of smoking and vaping. But now I've taken it a step further. I asked each of my children to sign our family contract.

With their signature, each child promised not to use e-cigarettes or any other drug and I, as a parent, have a responsibility as well. I have to become familiar with the product so I would recognize it if I saw it.  For example, an internet search reveals popular e-cig products among young people look like pens. Juul, a very popular e-cig product, looks like a thumb drive.

Lastly, we taped our signed contracts on the wall, a constant reminder or our commitment to our health and our promise to each other.

If you suspect your child may be vaping, here are some of the warning signs:

    *INCREASED THIRST.  Vaping dries your mouth and throat causing many to drink more water.
    *DESIRE MORE FLAVOR.  Your child may desire more flavor in food because moisture helps give food its flavor.  If your child is using e-cigarettes they may develop dry mouth commonly called “vaper’s tongue.”  To compensate, they may want to add more salt or spice to food.
    *NOSE BLEEDS. Just as the mouth becomes dry the nose does as well which may cause it to bleed.
    *ACNE. Acne among adolescents is not uncommon, but if it inexplicably worsens, e-cigarettes could be contributing to the condition.
    *CUT BACK ON CAFFEINE. Your child may stop drinking caffeine because the combination of the caffeine plus the nicotine makes them anxious.

The Center for Disease Control has provided a wealth of information for parents as well as tips for talking to your kids about e-cigarettes.

Credits

Deanna Dewberry

Copyright 2019 - WHEC-TV, LLC A Hubbard Broadcasting Company

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