The Odessa Record -

By Darren Mattozzi
LCADC Prevention & Recovery, RECAP Coalition 

Local vaping trend a growing concern

 


Is vaping prevalent with our youth? Have a conversation with your local schools and you will find that this is one of the fastest growing trends with our late elementary, middle and high school students.

For those of you who don’t know, vaping is the inhaling of a vapor created by an electronic cigarette (e-cigarette) or other vaping device. Some e-cigarettes are designed to resemble regular cigarettes, while others look more like pens, flash drives, highlighters and key fobs. These devices operate by heating a liquid solution to a high enough temperature so that it produces an aerosol that is inhaled.

The most popular e-liquids used by young people come in many youth-appealing flavors and food-like packaging. Some of these flavors include watermelon, cotton candy, butter beer, bubble gum, and the list goes on. The growing concern with these juices is the lack of regulation and enforcement. The FDA approves some of the juices for oral consumption but none of them for inhalation, due to the lack of research regarding the safety of the compounds found in the juices. At least 60 chemical compounds are in e-liquids, and more are in the aerosol they produce.

The health effects of using e-devices is becoming clearer with the development of new studies. One study found that e-cigarette exposure narrows arteries by 30 percent and decreases the blood vessels’ ability to widen. Vaping can stiffen the aorta, which is an early warning sign of serious health conditions like stroke or aneurysm. Vaping causes brain damage to the prefrontal cortex which is responsible for decision making, emotions and impulse control; things that teens are already lacking because their brains are not fully developed. You can find more health information at Partnership for Drug-Free Kids, American Lung Association or the Truth Initiative.

Between 2011 and 2017, e-cigarette use significantly increased among youth in high school and middle school. The 2017 National Youth Tobacco Survey found that 11.7 percent of high school students and 3.3 percent of middle school students used e-cigarettes in the last 30 days compared with 1.5 percent of high school and 0.6 percent of middle school students who reported current use in 2011. According to the 2018 Washington State Healthy Youth Survey, the number of Lincoln County students who report using an e-cigarette in the past 30 days was higher than the state average, with the majority reporting using liquid with nicotine in it, followed by a group who reported using multiple substances in the vape pen, including THC (marijuana).

E-device use is surging among young people for a multitude of reasons. The primary risk factors that contribute to youth substance use are access, availability and perception of harm. If youth have increased access and availability to these products, coupled with a low perception of harm, research tells us that youth use rates go up. The proof is in the puddin’; our data doesn’t lie and our rates are going up.

I have been receiving multiple calls and emails from surrounding schools/groups asking for resources to combat this epidemic. I have responded by providing workshops which help participants learn how to identify devices, e-juices, concealment techniques, health effects, contributing factors and, most importantly, what we can do.

What can you do? Talk early and often about the risks. Kids are less likely to use if they believe their parents or their communities disapprove of e-device use. Set clear rules against substance use and enforce reasonable consequences. Stay involved in your child’s life; eat dinner together, know who their friends are, keep track of what they are doing. Be aware of signs and take action if you think your teen is using. Talk to your school counselor or another trusted source. Feel free to contact LCADC Prevention & Recovery for vaping information, as well as information about other local resources, at 509-725-2111.

 

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