Don’t Ignore the Vaping Problem | Editorials

At the end of 2019, the health story that captured the public’s attention was not the coronavirus.

ERs had begun reporting mysterious cases of lung disease, with more than half of patients under the age of 25. The common link was the use of electronic cigarettes, often with vitamin E acetate as an additive to THC.

In February 2020, the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported 2,807 hospitalizations and 68 deaths associated with vaping. For a time, this story caused a backlash against e-cigarettes, but then the public moved on.

Yet vaping, especially among young people, has not gone away. Not by far. A CDC survey found that nearly 20% of high school students and 5% of college students admitted to using e-cigarettes in the past 30 days.

Despite the fun packaging and fruity flavors, this is still risky behavior. Up to 99% of electronic cigarettes sold in the United States contain nicotine, a stimulant that is highly addictive and can damage the brains of adolescents.

The aerosol is not harmless water vapour. Ultrafine particles can be inhaled deep into the lungs. E-cigarettes use flavorings like diacetyl, a chemical linked to lung disease. Vapers also inhale heavy metals like nickel, tin, and lead. Post-marketing changes can be particularly dangerous and have been linked to some of the pulmonary cases in the ER.

Looking for a more immediate impact? Dental experts say regular vaping reduces saliva in the mouth, leading to chronic bad breath. Good luck finding a prom date.

For adults, it is easy to look at young people and marvel at their vitality and ability to embrace and master new technologies and concepts. But it’s also sobering how often they make the same stupid mistakes we made in our youth. Many teenagers still consider themselves bulletproof.

It is an adult’s responsibility to come between adolescents and behaviors with long-term negative consequences. Not in a judgmental way, dad knows best, but as a practical intervention until they’re grown up and free to do all the stupid things they want.

St. Joseph’s School District has installed vaping monitors in high schools and at the Webster Learning Center. Now the Board of Education is considering bids to install the same equipment in colleges, where the first encounter with temptations and peer pressure often occurs.

These devices won’t stop teens from vaping on their own. They’re probably only as good as the human intervention that comes with them.

But given the prevalence of vaping and the unknown long-term consequences, the district should pursue these devices and any other reasonable strategies to nip teen vaping in the electronic bud.

About Margaret Shaw

Check Also

BACK TO SCHOOL: Using e-cigarettes at school can help discipline

The impact of e-cigarettes on our schools In recent months, great steps have been taken …