News10NBC Investigates: 13-year-old girl speaks out about her nicotine addiction
ROCHESTER, N.Y. — In last year’s survey of Monroe County high school students, almost a fourth admitted to vaping at some point.
While the numbers are down, they’re still troubling. That’s why Deanna Dewberry has been investigating the issue. Perhaps, what’s most troubling is how easy it is for your teen to hide the problem.
This summer, the FDA warned parents about this disposable e-cigarette that looks exactly like a highlighter.
Deanna bought vapes that look like a lipstick and a pin. And a hair brush, can of shaving cream, umbrella or a pencase make convenient hiding places for vape products.
Now, it’s more important than ever that teens, and those who love them, remain informed
Teens are watching countless cool, attractive young people who make vaping look like harmless fun on social media. Often, kids start vaping long before they’re old enough drive, see an R-rated movie, or even ride a roller coaster.
News10NBC interviewed a teen who vapes. Let’s call her Kim, to protect her identity. She’s now 13, vapes daily, and admits she’s addicted.
Deanna Dewberry, News10NBC: “When did you start vaping?”
Kim: “When I was, like, 10.”
Deanna: “When you were 10?”
Deanna: “I know a lot of folks who are addicted to nicotine. They really need to vape at least once an hour. Is that the case for you?
Kim: “Most of the time, yeah. If I don’t, I get extremely stressed out and, like, a lot of anxiety, yeah.”
Dr. Susan Gasparino leads child and adolescent programming at the Center for Community Health and Prevention at URMC.
“An adolescent brain isn’t fully formed yet,” explains Dr. Gasparino. “They’re still developing. They’re more susceptible to nicotine addiction.”
And that physical addiction takes an emotional and psychological toll.
“What can initially make you feel some relief and ease anxiety, in the long term, the addiction causes more anxiety and has been linked to anxiety and depression in our young people,” says Dr. Gasparino.
According to the CDC, from 2022 to 2023, the percentage of high school students using tobacco fell almost 4%. But the number of vaping and smoking middle schoolers, like Kim, rose more than 2%.
Deanna: “So, what are some of the cons as you see it?”
Kim: “Um, not being able to run up stairs without getting out of breath. Um, not being able to run without getting out of breath.”
According to the American Lung Association, with each puff, she’s potentially inhaling not only nicotine but also propylene glycol, the carcinogen formaldehyde, an herbicide called acrolein, a lung destroying flavoring called diacetyl, heavy metals, and ultrafine particles.
Those particles accumulate in the lungs, and that really troubles chemist James Wesley.
“Now, they know it causes inflammation,” says Wesley. “They know it causes asthma attacks and bronchitis. And they’re just starting to study what is the effect over time.”
To demonstrate, he brought an air purifier designed to collect ultra fine air particles that you can’t see.
First he weighs a clean filter. Then he weighs a filter that has been collecting fine particles for two months in a musty basement.
Wesley: “214, 215… Now, let’s do the math — 25,30 grams, about an ounce of particles that I can’t see, that I may have inhaled, are now in the filter,”
Now imagine those filters are your lungs trapping a multitude of fine particles with each puff.
That’s not something these popular YouTube vapers discuss while making videos, even while choking on the very products they’re promoting.
So, when kids are using a product that’s easy to hide, how are schools handling the vaping crisis?
News10NBC visited a high school that’s confronting the problem head-on — with a counselor who focuses solely on addiction prevention.
Here are some links to a wealth of resources to help you and your teenager:
- Vape Escape, a program though URMC to help teens stop vaping is happening now. Registration is now open.
- UofR Dependence Treatment Program
- How to Quit Vaping from smokefree.gov
- CDC’s basic info on e-cigarettes
- Five tips for handling withdraw from Truth Initiative
- ‘What is an e-cigarette?’ from the American Lung Association
- Truth Initiative’s “This is Quitting’