Number of teens vaping in America is skyrocketing and here’s what you need to know
Teen vaping is skyrocketing and the push back has companies scrambling to restructure their marketing campaigns. But current lack of education and regulation compared to cigarettes is leading teens to believe it won’t harm them.
“My parents don’t really know what it is,” Christian Hernandez said. “They just think it is a flash drive.”
Hernandez is talking about a vaping device known as JUUL.
But it’s much more dangerous than a flash drive. The pods that go in these devices can deliver as much nicotine to your teen’s lungs as smoking a pack cigarettes. It says so on the box.
“If I think about other things I could put in my body,” Hernandez said, “I’d rather have just nicotine and or JUUL then everything else.”
It is a belief shared by millions of other kids his age, including one user who asked to go by the name of “Junior.”
“I got lightheaded at first,” said Junior, about his first hit from a JUUL.
It did not stop him from continuing.
“I just didn’t know what to do with myself for a cool minute or so,” Junior said. “Then, I just kept on taking more hits.”
At the Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation in Naples, they say vaping that nicotine is a bigger problem than you might think.
Heather Hayes, an employee at Hazelden, said there is a mistaken assumption that it’s not particularly harmful.
Hazelden is a center that treats addiction in Southwest Florida. Hayes has seen a lot of clients affected by nicotine over the years.
“Many people come in for substance abuse treatment who are also using nicotine,” Hayes said.
Research shows vaping nicotine may be a helpful way for adults to quit smoking. But Hayes said that nicotine has a harmful effect on developing brains of teenagers.
It’s a claim supported by a study published in 2015 from the University of California. It finds the nicotine makes it easier for younger users to get hooked and it rewires the brain, making other addictions to more dangerous drugs increasingly likely.
The companies that make these devices, include JUUL, Kilo and Mojo. But they are facing pressure from the public.
For instance, last November, JUUl shutdown its Facebook and Instagram accounts. It followed government regulators calling teen vaping an epidemic.
It also cut off its supply of certain flavored pods to more than $90,000 stores after the Food and Drug Administration raised concerns about kids using the products.
But Hayes said that is not enough.
“Eighth and tenth graders, when they were polled recently, know how to get these devices very easily,” Hayes said.
That is according to a 2018 study from the University of Michigan.
The nicotine they are getting makes it harder for them to concentrate, learn and control their impulses, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention.
Leaders in Washington are aware of this issue.
Right now, no products to help teenagers kick the habit have been approved by the FDA. However, Dr. Scott Gottlieb, commissioner of the FDA, tweeted: “We need to do everything possible to reverse this trend and help kids who may already be addicted.”
But Hayes believes a lot of irreversible damage has already been done.
“We know that nicotine is especially dangerous to a developing brain,” Hayes said. “Nicotine delivery is affecting their judgment, their impulsivity.”
She and others warn parents to get educated about these products before they fall into kids hands, such as Hernandez, who does not seem bothered about the risks.
“I don’t see myself quitting vaping,” Hernandez said.
Full Statements from vaping manufactures:
JUUL Labs shares a common goal with policy makers, regulators, parents, school officials, and community stakeholders– preventing youth from initiating on nicotine. We are committed to preventing youth access of JUUL products, and no young person or non-nicotine user should ever try JUUL. We cannot fulfill our mission to provide the world’s one billion adult smokers with a true alternative to combustible cigarettes if youth use continues unabated. As we said before, our intent was never to have youth use JUUL products.
“We have taken dramatic action to contribute to solve this problem, which is why we implemented the JUUL Labs Action Plan to address underage use of JUUL products. We suspended the distribution of certain flavored JUULpods to traditional retail stores as of November 17, 2018, strengthened the age verification of our industry leading site, eliminated our Facebook and Instagram accounts, and are developing new technology to further limit youth access and use.
“We are committed to working with lawmakers, the Surgeon General, FDA, state Attorneys General, local municipalities, and community organizations as a transparent and responsible partner in this effort.”
Mojo and Kilo did not respond to our request for comment but have the following statements on their website,
“This product can expose you to chemicals including nicotine, which is known to the State of California to cause cancer and reproductive harm. This product is not intended for sale or use to those under 21 years of age. This product contains nicotine. Nicotine is an addictive chemical.”
“We will not sell nicotine or nicotine related products to anyone who is not of legal age to purchase and use tobacco or nicotine products under applicable law. We cannot be held responsible for minors purchasing nicotine or nicotine related products with a parent or guardian’s credit card. By placing your order for nicotine or a nicotine related product you are confirming that you are of legal age to purchase and use nicotine products in the state, country or territory where you are based. We may restrict the acquisition of nicotine related products in your area.”