5 Answers Teachers Need About E-Cigarettes
The number of high school students who have recently vaped increased nearly 80% in the last year. In fact, 1 in 5 high school students and 1 in 20 middle school students now use e-cigarettes.
These startling statistics led U.S. Surgeon General Jerome M. Adams to issue a rare advisory on youth e-cigarette use on December 18, 2018, saying “everyone can play an important role in protecting our nation’s young people from the risks of e-cigarettes.”
As teachers, looking out for students is part of the job, but with youth tobacco use spiking across the country, how can you make a positive impact? Get answers about JUULs and other vape products – and make a difference in your classroom.
What are e-cigarettes?
E-cigarettes are battery-powered devices that heat nicotine juice to create an inhalable vapor. They’re also known as “vapes,” “e-cigs,” “mods” or “JUULs.” While e-cigarettes go by many names, they’re behind one nation-wide epidemic – they’re getting young people hooked.
Just like regular cigarettes, e-cigarettes contain nicotine, an addictive chemical, which affects the brain. Increasingly, young people are attracted to the devices’ array of flavored products. In fact, e-cigarettes are the most commonly used tobacco product among U.S. middle and high school students.
What are JUULs?
JUULs are the most popular brand of e-cigarette. Their sleek, flashdrive-like design makes them popular with kids because they’re easy to hide from adults. JUULs are so easy to hide, in fact, that some kids use them in bathrooms, hallways… and even classrooms.
One JUUL pod contains as much nicotine as 20 cigarettes, so one pod purchase is all e-cigarette companies need to hook a young person.
JUULs use replaceable “pods” filled with a potent nicotine solution called “juice.” When the heating element vaporizes the solution, it creates a cloud of inhalable vapor. Many times, this vapor has a fruity or sweet flavor, and flavored JUUL pods are extremely popular among young e-cigarette users.
Why do flavors matter?
More than 85% of e-cigarette users aged 12-17 use flavored e-cigarettes. The familiar taste of bubblegum or cotton candy makes experimentation more enticing to kids.
4 out of 5 kids who have used tobacco started with a flavored product.
Also, a wide variety of flavors invites a “collect them all” mentality from kids. If they don’t like one flavor, there are thousands more to try. Alarmingly, there are an estimated 15,500 tobacco flavors on the market in 2019.
How are kids affected by e-cigarettes?
Teen brains are extremely susceptible to addiction. The nicotine in e-cigarettes can impair youth brain development, which continues until at least age 25. It’s estimated that 4 out of 5 youth smokers will become adult smokers. Just one e-cigarette cartridge can lead to a lifetime of addiction.
E-juice consumption causes arterial stiffness, which increases the risks of heart attacks and strokes. E-cigarette use among youth and young adults is strongly linked to the use of other tobacco products, such as traditional cigarettes. Studies show that combustible tobacco use kills more Americans than AIDS, alcohol, motor vehicles, homicide, illegal drugs and suicide combined.
What can I do?
First, discuss the dangers of e-cigarettes with your students. Youth tobacco use in any form, including e-cigarettes, is unsafe. A recent national survey showed that most American teens believe that e-cigarettes cause little or limited harm. The truth is that many e-cigarettes contain nicotine, which is highly addictive and capable of causing lifelong issues.
If your school does not have clear tobacco-free policies, work with administrators to establish, implement and enforce guidelines. Students should understand that school is a tobacco-free zone, and there are consequences for having e-cigarettes on school grounds.
The easiest solution is to set a positive example. By being tobacco-free and vape free, you’ll help your students make better choices. The Oklahoma Tobacco Helpline offers free services to quit tobacco and is available to Oklahomans age 14 and up. Contact the Oklahoma Tobacco Helpline at 1-800-QUIT NOW or OKhelpline.com.
Still have questions? Visit StopsWithMe.com for more helpful information. Together, we can save a generation from a lifetime of addiction.