OSAP Newsletter: Parents, keep up on substance abuse trends and how you can help your kids. You can sign up to receive the monthly OSAP Newsletter directly to your email by going to this link and scrolling to the bottom of the page.
Here is a recent blog post from OSAP about vaping:
Today’s newest trend among teens is not what clothes or shoes to wear or what social media account to be on; while still important, the fastest growing trend is one with long term consequences. This trend is Vaping. According to the FDA and CDC, vaping has reached epidemic levels in the U.S; in the past year, vaping has seen a 78% increase among high school students (to 20.8%) and a 48% increase among middle school students (to 4.9%). Ottawa County teens are just as involved in vaping as the rest of the country. According to the 2017 Ottawa County Youth Assessment Survey, 25% or 1 in 4 of our youth have used an electronic delivery device (e-cigarette or vape) in the past month. Many more have used a vape at least once in their lifetime.
For parents, this trend felt like it came out of nowhere. Youth who would never touch a cigarette or any other drug are using vapes at an alarming rate. So, why is this such a hot trend? The first reason is youth do not see the harm in vaping. E-cigarettes and Vapes are marketed as a safer alternative to smoking and are marketed as not having the same chemicals found in traditional tobacco cigarettes. Combine this with the flavors used in vape cartridges and youth see vapes as harmless fun. Additionally, vaping releases large water vapor clouds and youth have identified this as a challenge to make fun shapes.
Vaping and electronic cigarettes are a natural outcome from our digital age. We all have smartphones and smart watches, so it makes sense that we could have an electronic way to smoke. Many e-cigarettes and vapes now look like USB drives, making them appealing to youth.
The e-cigarette manufacturers, through their use of fruity, “fun” flavors, have targeted youth: there are more than 15,000 flavors like gummy bear, cotton candy, and mango (the FDA is currently taking action against flavored vape cartridges). Marketing strategies have been built to attract youth, including the design of the product. Nearly 2 in 5 middle and high school youth saw e-cigarette ads online. Many of our youth may not have the skills or capabilities to be “savvy” media consumers—and will believe the advertising that they see.
But, is vaping really safe? The answer is both “we don’t exactly know” and “no”. The reality is that vaping is new and so we don’t have a lot of research on the long term implications of vaping yet. However, we do know some specific risks that do lend themselves to saying “no”, vaping really isn’t safe.
- First Nicotine. The e cig liquid contains nicotine, which is highly addictive and negatively affects brain development. Studies have shown that the brain continues to develop until the age of 26—nicotine use may predispose youth to addiction, making other drugs such as cocaine more pleasurable.
- The amount of nicotine in a vape pod varies, but the ease of use often causes the person using a vape to take in more nicotine in a day than someone smoking traditional cigarettes. A typical Juul pod contains as much nicotine as a pack of cigarettes. For youth, this causes a higher rate of nicotine addiction and often means they are more addicted than a teen would have been to traditional cigarettes years ago.
- It’s not just water vapor. The liquid that is vaporized in the device contains MANY toxic chemicals—and it also contains many of the same chemicals that are found in traditional cigarettes. These include nickel, tin, chromium, and lead; benzene, a chemical compound used in pesticides and formaldehyde, a chemical compound used in pesticides that may cause cancer. Additionally, the flavorings in e cig liquid, contain diacetyl, a chemical linked to bronchiolitis obliterans, a condition nicknamed “popcorn lung”. This chemical was often used to flavor microwave popcorn, leading many companies to stop using it as flavoring; however, it is still used in many e-cigarette flavors.
We often hear youth say “it’s just water vapor” about vaping, and a person using vapes does inhale water vapor instead of smoke (when compared to traditional cigarettes). Inhaling water vapor is not healthy for our lungs. Think about when you go outside in the winter and it takes your breath away. This is your lungs response to breathing in conditions that are not conducive to full lung function. This same thing happens when you inhale water vapor. Lungs are not meant to breath in water vapor; they are meant to breath in oxygen. Water vapor in lungs impairs their functioning.
Vapes may be a helpful way to stop smoking or recover from nicotine addiction. They may be a cleaner way to smoke. Adults who choose to use e-cigarettes and vapes in this way may be choosing the healthier option for themselves. However, for youth who are still developing, still growing and still learning, this is a harmful trend.
What can you do?
- Support FDA efforts to regulate vapes: the FDA, in the past few weeks, has moved to ban the sale of flavored e cigarettes at certain retail locations like gas stations and convenience stores and to require age verifications for anyone purchasing vaping products on line.
- Support stores who have stopped selling vapes marketed specifically to youth
- Talk To your youth and teach media literacy
- Attend the February 6th town hall. https://osapvapingtownhall.eventbrite.com
The pre-teen and teen years can be tough years for parents. It gets harder to keep up with our kids’ schedules and harder to make sure we’re spending quality family time together. While it is developmentally appropriate for teens to want to spend less and less time with their parents and more time with peers, it’s important to maintain time to connect and talk about difficult topics. When you add in the rapidly changing information available to our youth and the misinformation from social media, it can feel overwhelming for us as parents to bring up tricky subjects like substance abuse, sexual health or mental health.
Last year however, a local regional coalition held focus groups with teens and with parents, and what they heard was that teens want MORE conversation with their parents, not less....even if they don't act like it. Teens want to have safe conversations where they can ask questions, feel like they are getting true information and even talk about things they might be embarrassed to discuss with their friends. These conversations can also help parents frame the information in terms of their family values and expectations. But, it’s important to keep these conversations open and a balanced discussion. So, how do you do this?
- Ask questions: Hear from your teens what they are talking about with their peers, listen to their questions and their perspective and help them think through the consequences of what they are saying.
- Research together: the internet can be a great resource or a terrible one. Spend time looking up things you don’t know with your kids and then help them decide what is a credible source and what isn’t. (hint: TalkSooner.org has helpful information on substance abuse that you can trust).
- Share stories: The big topics of substance abuse, sexual health and mental health reach all families. We have all been impacted by these things in some way, share the impact that you see and share what you want to see for your youth.
- Use resources: TalkSooner.org is a locally run website and smartphone app designed to help parents have these conversations. The site is filled with reliable information on a variety of substances along with conversation starter for parents.
Access from AT&T: Discounted wireline home Internet service to qualifying households.
Internet Essentials: Is your student on free lunch? Then you may qualify to bring home the internet for only $9.95 per month. Visit the website for more information.
Just for Dads!: Pathways of Michigan is offering this free ongoing program where dads can get support and learn valuable parenting information.
Know How to Talk to Your Kids About Instagram: We know that as a parent it may be hard to understand what your kids are doing online. That’s why we’ve created this resource. We’re here to fill you in on what Instagram is all about, give you some easy conversation starters and show you some of the tools that are in place to keep your teen safe.
Pathways Newsletter: Pathways of West Michigan offers many great parenting workshops. Consider signing up for their monthly newsletter to receive information on their upcoming workshops.
Prevent Prescription Drug Abuse: A pamphlet of information on how you can prevent prescription drug abuse.
Rx Disposal: This flier provides information on where and why to dispose of medications.
True North Community Services: Are you having difficulties paying your utility bills? True North Community Services may be able to help.
The Find Teen Rehab Centers Near You technology uses your location to generate a local listing of all the teen rehab centers in and around your community.
Alltreatment.com is a community-based public-benefit website connecting people to the addiction resources they need.
Here is the link to our local teen rehab center locator: https://www.alltreatment.com/