#MentionPrevention: Vaping & Middle School – What do they know?
Has your middle schooler been exposed to vaping at school? Within the recent years vaping among middle schoolers have been on the rise. As of February 18, 2020, a total of 2,807 hospitalized e-cigarette, or vaping, product use-associated lung injury (EVALI) cases or deaths have been reported to CDC from 50 states, the District of Columbia, and two U.S. territories (Puerto Rico and U.S. Virgin Islands)[i]
If your child is with you, at school or at an extra-curricular activity, how do they have time to vape without you knowing? It is happening on the way to school (walking with friends or on the bus), on the way home, in the school bathrooms and any other place they can think of that they will not get caught. But what is so intriguing about vaping for them? Why is vaping so appealing and not the “old school” cigarettes anymore?
In speaking with a few middle school aged children in the Southern region of Connecticut who reportedly have never participated in using vapes or E-cigarettes, a few interesting factors came up:
- The Flavoring: what does it taste like?
- Is it safer than real cigarettes?
- Everyone talks about it at school and on social media
There are different flavors of vaping that make it not only enticing but makes it seem less risky. Middle school aged youths rarely turn down candy, so if there is some type of sweet flavoring added to something, they most likely are going to be interested. Vapes or E-cigarettes come in a variety of sweet flavors that relate to juice or candy flavors that children love. In speaking with the youth some feedback was curiosity of how it tasted since they heard about the different flavors (strawberry and blue raspberry). They wondered if “smoke” really could taste like that. Also they wondered if it were safer since it was not really a cigarette and it tasted like “candy”. Therein lies the worry of curiosity. From an early age children are taught to ask questions and for parents to feed their curiosity. Communication is key. The hope is to always fill their curiosity with valid and accurate information from reputable sources.
“If it taste like candy it must be safer, right?” “It doesn’t have all of the chemicals that cigarettes have so it’s a little safer, I guess.” “All you do is charge it so at least you don’t have to light it”. These were the youths’ responses to my question, if vaping was safer than an actual cigarette. Some youth may believe or lean towards believing vaping is safer because you do not have to use a lighter and there is no “tobacco or chemicals” in the E-cigarette like a traditional cigarette. However the conversation to have here are the alternative risks of smoking E-cigarettes such as: diarrhea, nausea/vomiting, breathing issues, coughing and lung injury[ii]. Many of these side effects are not known, in fact, in speaking with the middle school aged youths were only able to identify coughing as a possible side effect. Conversation around the side effects and possible long term health problems were conducted to educate them that the smoke from the E-cigarette is harmful.
So where are the middle school aged children learning about the existence of E-cigarettes and the idea that they are able to use them? During the conversation the children stated they hear it from other children either at school or while playing video games or maybe even a family member uses it. However, the most occurrence for advertisement is through social media, all of the youth used Instagram and Tik Tok. All mentioned they view numerous ads on these social media sites regarding E-cigarettes, with people that look like their age. They were unsure if they were really their age but stated the people in the ads looked young. This is another reason why middle school aged children believe E-cigarettes are “not a big deal”, the marketing of this item appears to be geared to the younger consumer by using “younger looking” actors paired with a variety of flavors for the product. It is unreasonable to assume that a parent is monitoring their child’s social media 100% of the time, therefore confidence in being able to communicate with an approachable adult is imperative.
How do we communicate with a middle school aged child effectively? How do we find information that is helpful and easy to read? We need to have access to this information and we need to be able to speak to our children effectively, because even at middle school aged they are needing to navigate peer pressure and pressure from social media. Have you talked to your middle schooler today about vaping?
If you are looking for more information about this topic a great site is https://drugfree.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/11/What-You-Need-to-Know-and-How-to-Talk-to-Your-Kids-About-Vaping-Guide-Partnership-for-Drug-Free-Kids.pdf. Here you can access how to talk to your children about vaping and important information to keep you and your children informed and safe.
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