Technology can be a wonderful creation, and it should be far more beneficial than it is destructive. The invention of e-cigarettes (“vapes,” “e-cigs”) is no exception. Originally created to give smokers a safer alternative, e-cigs came into existence with just that in mind… a better product meant to help people quit smoking while giving them the opportunity to improve their health (and potentially extend their lives).
And for many former smokers, it has been a huge success. While we still don't know what long-term vaping means as it relates to health, most experts agree that it is better than smoking traditional cigarettes.
But there will always be unintended consequences. In this case, it involves getting a whole new generation of kids addicted to nicotine. And most have never even touched a cigarette.
How many, you ask? The current data won't tell you the truth, because in 2018, the vape market exploded (no pun intended).
As a person who works in drug prevention, providing programming to students of all ages, here’s a rough guess: 30-50 percent of middle school students and 50-80 percent of high school students have vaped within the past 30 days. I’m not telling you that these are official numbers… I’m just telling you what the students told me. Yes, those are their estimates. And yes, this is in Tuscaloosa.
Nicotine is the addictive substance that won’t go away. For years, health department messages and tobacco prevention efforts have been largely effective. Teen smoking and chewing tobacco use is down. Many cities and campuses have gone “smoke free” – which has helped change the culture over the past couple of decades.
But even with all that progress, we have somehow allowed this to happen right under our kids’ noses. The delivery method has simply changed. And regardless of how harmless your child thinks it is, being chemically dependent on anything in order to feel normal and to restore brain function is a definite form of addiction that can easily be avoided.
When you talk to your kids about it, don't just tell them not to do it. Explain the reasons why. The conversation about the safety of the product misses the point. The fact that nicotine can be more addictive than heroin and can permanently change the brain, especially when the prefrontal cortex is not fully developed, is. We’re talking about effects on cognition, memory, emotion, and a proneness to lifelong use.
Most kids are incapable of fully understanding addiction. We must teach them.
After that, go google “Juul” and “Sourin” – and then, check your kids’ backpacks. Parents and grandparents may not know what that is, but I can almost guarantee that your kid does.
I tweet insignificant things @ozborn34.
Derek Osborn is the Executive Director of PRIDE of Tuscaloosa by trade and a writer by hobby. He lives in Tuscaloosa with his wife, Lynn, and their daughters, Savannah and Anica.