By Sarah Dedrick, PNP
It’s hard as a parent of an adolescent to know what the latest trend is and what all the kids are doing.
Being the mother of four children, two of those being teenagers, along with being a Pediatric Nurse Practitioner, I try to stay in tune with what is the newest and “coolest”’ thing to do as a teenager. The most recent hype the past few years has been with E-cigarettes.
E-cigarettes: Vape and Juul
There are many different types of E-cigarettes. I will be giving you some quick facts about the two most popular among teenagers: the ‘’Vape’’ (medium to large tank device) and the Juul.
The ‘’Vape’’, as my teenagers and others call it, can be either a medium or large tank metal device. It’s used by having a separate bottle of liquid that you pour into the holding tank on the device. The liquid is heated up as you smoke. This is where the ‘’vape’’ gets tricky. The liquid that is being put into the device may or may not contain nicotine. There are liquids that vary in nicotine concentrations from 0 mg/ml to as high as 36 mg/ml. A normal cigarette contains an average of 12mg per cigarette.
The only way you will know, as a parent, is by seeing the bottle containing the liquid and knowing this is for sure the liquid that was used. A big trend with these type of devices is doing ‘’tricks’’ with the smoke that is produced. They may not be smoking for the nicotine but using the device to make ‘’donuts’’, ‘’jellyfish’’, ‘’tornados’’, or a ‘’waterfall’’ to name a few with the smoke that’s exhaled. Even though they’re not inhaling nicotine, they’re still inhaling toxic chemicals and metals produced with the device when it heats up and the smoke is inhaled.
The Juul is the newest and, likely, most popular among the teenagers. It’s also one that most parents are not aware of. Many have no knowledge regarding this device.
The Juul is another form of an E-cigarette. It looks like a flash drive and is even charged using a USB port. It’s very discrete and does not resemble a typical cigarette or other larger vaping device (like the one mentioned above). It has very few parts and is uncomplicated (again unlike the one mentioned above). Due to this, it can be very easily hidden. It can be hidden in a hand while the adolescent is smoking it. Which makes it easy to smoke at school, in the classroom or bathroom, and at home. It operates by heating up a ‘’pod’’ that is filled with the nicotine containing liquid. You buy the pods and change them out when the liquid is done.
Besides charging it, this is as easy as it gets. The one small ‘’pod’’ contains as much nicotine as a pack of cigarettes, making it highly concentrated and addicting.
For all E-cigarettes, the fear in the medical community is increasing regarding the potential harm to the teenagers.
E-cigarettes are not only popular because of their discreetness, but also the appealing flavors that are possible: mango, crème, cucumber, mint, fruit, etc. The smoke has a sweet scent and doesn’t make the adolescent smell. Their clothes, car, room, breath, etc, don’t smell like a traditional cigarette.
The nicotine in these devices is a highly addictive drug.
When the concentration of nicotine is even higher, teenagers are getting more of a ‘’high’’ from it. They get an energetic boost or a calming experience from smoking/vaping. Even if they’re smoking a vape device that has no nicotine… just developing the habit of smoking can lead to smoking traditional cigarettes or engaging in other drug use.
Besides developing the habit and/or addiction, there’s worry of the damage to an adolescents developing brain.
The adolescent brain is not developed like the adult brain. When they’re exposed to nicotine, it affects the ‘’reward’’ system in the brain which leads to addiction. The nicotine can also affect the brain circuits that control attention and learning along with mood and impulse control. These, along with the obvious harms of smoking and inhaling foreign substances into your lungs, are becoming a real concern for parents and the medical community.
We recently visited a Cardiologist for my husband. The Cardiologist briefly mentioned nicotine, specifically with the Juul, stating how bad the nicotine is on the heart muscle. In the years to come, it will be interesting to see how many young people end up having heart issues related to nicotine use.
Parenting is hard.
There’s no right way or wrong way to parent. It’s easy to point fingers or say that a child is doing this because of their home life or the type of parents they have. I think I’m a decent parent =) And yet I’ve caught my teenage daughters Juuling.
Educating ourselves and being aware is what we can do as parents. This is not only with smoking/vaping but with all aspects of teenage life: drinking, texting and driving, speeding, drugs, sex, social media, etc. We need to know what the newest trends are so we can know what signs to watch for… and how to, hopefully, dissuade them from taking chances with their health. They are teenagers, and we should expect mistakes and curiosity. Mistakes are part of their journey and how they learn. Even as adults, we’re still making mistakes and learning from them.
Loving your teenager, accepting their mistakes, educating them and encouraging them are the some of the most valuable aspects of parenting (in my opinion).