Lately it seems I cannot turn on the radio or TV without hearing and seeing stories about the concerns of vaping (the use of electronic cigarettes). To date, there have been approximately 450 reported U.S. cases of vaping-related lung illnesses; and 6 deaths have been attributed to vaping. While I am troubled by the loss of life and health, I am thankful that the vaping epidemic is now receiving the media spotlight and attention it warrants. More can be read about this outbreak on the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention WEBSITE.
After further review, these recent vaping deaths can be connected to products containing THC (the main psychoactive compound in marijuana). Another common denominator is a Vitamin E chemical compound that is used as an emulsifying agent (allowing liquids to mix) in vaping products. The compound is linked to extreme inflammation and damage to the lungs. While these specific deaths have been blamed on this chemical compound, make no mistake–ALL vaping products are extremely dangerous, especially for our youth, and for a number of reasons.
Nicotine content aside, over 60 chemical compounds have been found in the flavoring component of e-cigarette liquid. This flavoring is what makes the e-cigarettes so appealing to many of our youth. Who would not want to try something that tastes like “Juicy Fruit” or “Cotton Candy”? In fact, 81.5% of adolescent users report that the flavoring is the primary reason for trying and using vape products in the first place. Due to these findings, many states are moving toward banning flavored e-cigarette products. Right now, there are very few regulations concerning their production and sale. President Trump also recently announced a move toward banning flavored products from the marketplace.
In 2017 in Virginia, 16.7% of people reported using an e-cigarette product in the last 30 days. 11.8% of those users were high school students. The number of adolescent users has been growing at an alarming rate: from 2017 to 2018, the number of reported high school student users increased by a whopping 78%.
We know that nicotine exposure in the adolescent brain is particularly harmful because the brain is still developing. Nicotine exposure permanently harms nerve cell impulse function, and increases the brain chemistry related to addiction in the same way adolescent brains are more susceptible to other addictive substances. This means that once your teen has been exposed to nicotine, he or she is very vulnerable to becoming addicted to the product. This is why prevention and education are so important.
As parents, you are your child’s first teacher. The key is to educate yourself about the risks involved with vaping, and then regularly share them with your child. There is a wonderful website from the Truth Initiative with some great resources on how to do this HERE.
At Oak Hill Academy, we care about our students’ short term and long term health. We have some policies currently in place to provide reasonable consequences for using vaping products on campus. We are also developing an educational curriculum to share with our students in the classroom, and are starting an on-campus vaping support group that should kick off the first week of October.
Please join me in protecting and supporting our youth as we navigate this public health epidemic.
Thanks for reading.
Betsy Anderson, RN, BSN
Oak Hill Academy Nurse