Westwood CARES - Vaping: What Parents Need to Know
On Tuesday, January 9th, Westwood Cares was happy to host a community event, “Vaping: What Parents Need to Know”, presented by Dr. Michael Siegel, Dr. Richard Saitz and Dr. Emily Rothman of the Boston University School of Public Health.
Thank you to all of the parents and other community members who came out to learn more about vaping. Thanks, also, to the various people and organizations who helped bring the event to Westwood, including the Westwood High School PTO and Westwood Youth & Family Services.
We have summarized the key points from the presentation for you below. Our hope is that the presentation, a video of which can now be found on the Westwood Media Center website, will be helpful to you in understanding the risks of vaping and how parents can respond to these concerns.
- All e-cigarettes share certain characteristics that adults should know and understand. They are:
- How a vaporizer works (a liquid is heated very quickly by a battery and the resulting aerosol is inhaled into the lungs), what chemicals comprise most system's e-liquid, and that nearly all devices contain nicotine, which is addictive and harmful to developing brains.
- Many of the devices - and specifically Juuls - are sleekly produced, appearing similar to a thumb drive and charged through a USB port. Understanding what they look like is critical to identifying them in the home.
- Vaping is very difficult to detect: there is no second-hand 'smoke', the devices deliver a hit almost instantly by simply pressing a button, and many are designed in such a way that they can easily blend in to a teens' other possessions, like thumb drives. The speakers advised concerned parents to look for behavior in their teens that would suggest that they were concealing their actions. Or better, they can ask their teen outright if they have tried vaping or are currently vaping.
- It is illegal in MA to sell e-cigarettes to a person under 21. It is not illegal for a person under 21 to be in possession of e-cigarettes. However, having an e-cigarette at school or at a school event is prohibited; being found with an e-cigarette will result in significant disciplinary consequences. Additionally, using or possessing an e-cigarette is a violation of the MIAA's chemical health policy.
- Not all e-cigarettes are the same:
- One segment of the e-cigarettes market is comprised of devices that deliver low doses of nicotine. Many of these are inexpensive (often disposable) devices that are sold in convenience stores and other locations. Additionally, devices and juice pods can be purchased online.
- Of greater concern, the most popular device, the Juul, uses a nicotine salt to deliver a "hit" that closely resembles the user experience of tobacco cigarettes. As a result, the addiction potential of these devices is much higher than that of other non-Juul devices.
- Schools report that Juuls are the most popular device among teens and possibly even largely responsible for the sudden rise in vaping. News outlets report that Juul has quickly become the top-selling e-cigarette brand on the market.
- E-cigarettes and tobacco cigarettes are (mostly) very different:
- Since vaping eliminates the process of combustion, the carcinogenic properties attributed to tobacco cigarettes are minimally or not at all present in vaping devices.
- However, the devices deliver nicotine to the user's system; nicotine is highly addictive and detrimental to healthy brain development in teens.
- While the short-term health effects of vaping might not be acute, the long-term health effects are unclear: each of the speakers voiced concern that there could be long-term health consequences to the lungs, brain, and heart. The products are simply too new to know what those effects may be. The best choice is not to use e-cigarettes at all.
- The speakers all agreed that our current understanding about addiction can be applied to e-cigarettes. Specifically, rates of addiction are closely correlated to the age at which users first began their usage: the younger a user is when they start, the more likely they are to become addicted.
- The industry remains lightly regulated, and the chemicals (or their concentrations) may not be entirely accurate.
We received many responses from attendees and will be using that feedback to inform future programming. Finally, for more information about vaping, please check out:
Big Tobacco Targets Kids, a brochure developed by the MA Dept. of Public Health that contains an overview of e-cigarettes.
The Surgeon General’s report on E-cigarette Use among Youth and Young Adults is a great resource on this topic and has information, including a tip sheet for parents.
-Respectfully Submitted by Westwood Cares