An Oklahoma Pediatrics Professional Warns Against Youth Vaping
Audrey McGowen is a physician assistant at The Pediatric Group in Oklahoma City, and she encourages educating children about the dangers of vaping as early as 10 years old.
“In my experience talking with kids, seventh grade is the age that they start saying they know people who vape, so we want to have those conversations before that exposure,” McGowen said. “It also helps parents. It’s a good age to start prepping children that vaping isn’t safer than smoking.”
But is vaping really as dangerous as smoking? Many kids don’t realize that one e-cigarette can contain as much nicotine as 20 traditional cigarettes.
“Nicotine is a harmful chemical,” McGowen said. “There’s a common misconception that what you’re inhaling is water vapor, but it’s not. It’s aerosol. The flavoring has chemicals that have been linked to cancers. Some things in there are things they embalm bodies with.”
While hundreds of hospitalizations across the country have been linked to lung illnesses from vaping, we still don’t know exactly what the long-term effects will be. However, results from medical research could indicate a bleak future.
Chemicals left behind on teeth can deteriorate gum health. MRIs show obvious differences in the brain matter of those who vape.
This is particularly evident in youth because the brain continues to develop until around age 25, and nicotine exposure early in life changes neural pathways.
“When you use addictive substances, those pathways for memory and cognition don’t make as many connections, so you could be harming yourself for life by vaping in your teenage years,” McGowen explained.
A recent CDC survey indicates that nearly one-third of all teenagers use tobacco products, with e-cigarettes as the most popular. McGowen encourages all parents and concerned adults to have frank, open conversations about the consequences of vaping.
“I let them know this isn’t something that’s harmless. It isn’t cool; it’s expensive. I tell them to buy some cool shoes instead. A lot of times kids don’t think in the long term, so offering some short-term goals can be more effective,” McGowen advised.
Even if kids claim to experience it only through their friends, secondhand vaping can have the same detrimental effects. Kids who inhale aerosol particles can develop the same symptoms as smokers, like chronic congestion and coughing.
When it comes to resources for parents, teachers and loved ones, McGowen suggests checking out the TSET website, Tobacco Stops With Me, and the Oklahoma Tobacco Helpline, 1-800-QUIT NOW.
“Those have all sorts of good resources for parents,” she said. “Kids don’t usually come out and say they’re addicted. Especially for parents, being informed of the dangers, what the devices look like, and how to have open conversations with their kids can really help.”
Learn more about how to protect our youth from the dangers of vaping.
For downloadable resources about the dangers of vaping and tobacco use, visit our Resources and Data page.
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