ARC Chief of Pediatrics: There’s No Debate, Discourage Vaping Now
October 08, 2019
We don’t have time to wait for the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to complete its investigation into marketing practices by e-cigarette companies. The FDA no doubt will hit the vaping giants with stricter regulations and hefty fines. Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar said the FDA soon will issue guidelines for taking flavored vaping products off the market, but the process is expected to take months.
But if we wait until that happens, kids will continue getting injured. They will continue to die as a result of vaping.
Here is what we know: soon after a 2018 national survey found a significant annual increase in vaping among U.S. teens, hospitals reported increasing numbers of otherwise healthy young people coming into emergency rooms this summer with serious vaping-related illnesses.
As of Sept. 11, six people, most in their late teens and 20s, had died of a mysterious lung illness tied to vaping. All told by that date, there have been more than 500 cases reported by health officials and that number is expected to grow.
The e-cigarette makers will likely say that these cases (so far) are associated with cartridges they do not sell. So far, that apparently is true. But ingredients in e-cigarette cartridges (liquids that typically contain nicotine, propylene glycol, glycerin, flavorings and other chemicals) can act like a “gateway drug” to other vaped substances. We know vaping is harmful. Even if we overlook these respiratory illnesses linked to vaping, we know that nicotine is highly addictive and harmful a developing brain.
Let’s also not forget that one of those giants has decided to set up shop in our backyard. Juul, a leading e-cigarette manufacturer, has leased more than 62,000 square feet of office space in Austin.
There is no question that social media, movies, music and TV influence kids’ behavior and can encourage teens to try vaping, but research from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) shows that parents overall have the greatest influence when it comes to tobacco use.
It’s a good bet discussing vaping and e-cigarettes can have the same impact. And now is a good time to talk about this with your teens and pre-teens, whether you think they are vaping or thinking about trying it.
So how can you do this?
Study up. Start by learning more about vaping, types of e-cigarettes and the associated risks. Learn the language, too, to see if words like “juuling” or “juicing” pop up in your teen’s conversations.
Make time to talk. The sooner you start talking, the better – with an emphasis on the word “start.” Don’t view this discussion as a one-time occurrence. Bring up the topic again afterward and often, as you see or hear new developments on the topic.
Listen, don’t lecture. Hear your teen’s perspective. See what they already know – or believe is true. Foster discussion with succinct comments and a lot of give and take. Try starting with an open-ended question such as, “What do you think about vaping?”
Stick to facts. Just saying “vaping is bad for you” usually isn’t effective. During your research, accumulate data, experts’ evidence-based conclusions and how it makes sense to abstain.
Teach them how to say no. When they are offered opportunities to vape, do they know how to respond? Practice with them. Pretend you’re a classmate offering them an e-cigarette. Try to come up with several responses.
Acknowledge your limits. You know you can’t monitor them all the time. Why not make them feel empowered in a positive way? Consider saying something like, “You need to decide for yourself.”
Be an example. If you use tobacco product it is not too late to quit.
Decisions that we (including our government representatives) make over the next several years will determine whether the tobacco industry hooks a new generation on dangerous and addictive products. It will be too late for thousands of kids if we don’t start taking action now.
Mai Duong, MD, is Chief of Pediatrics at Austin Regional Clinic.