They are popping up on almost every corner. Vape shops — with their flashy neon signs and catchy names, they are luring our kids to come in and explore what they have to offer. Admittedly, the flavors are enticing: watermelon gummies, root beer float, chai tea latte, apple caramel drop. How can something that sounds so delicious and harmless pose a threat to our kids? After all, it’s not smoking, right?
Laura Searcy, a registered nurse and chair of the Cobb County Alliance to Prevent Substance Abuse, begs to differ. In her recent ParentEd. seminar at Mount Paran Christian School, Mrs. Searcy outlined the truth about the venom of vaping. The vaping trend is on the rise and is introducing teens, even pre-teens, to the more “socially acceptable” world of nicotine. These E.N.D.S. (Electronic Nicotine Delivery Devices) are more commonly called e-cigarettes, e-hookah, hookah sticks, mechanical mods, vape pens, and vaping devices. They come in all different sizes, ranging from brightly colored to shiny metals, some even bedazzled with rhinestones or shaped as a favorite superhero.
Despite the method used to deliver the drug, nicotine has profound effects on our youth, both physically and mentally. Studies have proven that nicotine alters the structure and function of the brain, specifically the development of the prefrontal cortex. There is evidence that nicotine’s adverse effects on adolescent brain development could result in lasting deficits in cognitive function. Youth are particularly vulnerable to the appeal of these potentially addictive novel tobacco products, and studies show youth become addicted to nicotine more easily and earlier than adults. The misconception is that vaping is safer than smoking because it is nicotine-free. According to the American Lung Association, almost all e-liquids contain nicotine—including many that claim they are nicotine-free.
Anything But Harmless
Why is nicotine so dangerous and why is it so addictive? Nicotine increases levels of the neurotransmitter known as dopamine and affects brain pathways that control development of the reward and pleasure system. This same effect is also found by the use of cocaine and heroin, which illustrates why nicotine is considered a “gateway” drug because it opens the door to use of illicit drugs with even more devastating and lasting effects. At current rates of use, 1 of every 13 Americans aged 17 years or younger alive today will die early from a tobacco-related illness. In light of this, it's clear that it's unwise for a young person to start using nicotine, even in a seemingly "safe" e-cigarette format?
Parents Are the Best Medicine
Use of substances in any form by a young person is unsafe. What can be done to protect our kids from these dangers? Talk to your kids about these harmful substances — explain the risks, set clear rules, practice and rehearse situations and refusal skills. It is also important to be involved with your kids – know their friends, monitor their activities, stay in contact. As parents, we can no longer afford to dismiss teenage substance use as harmless rites of passage. Whether it’s nicotine, alcohol, street drugs, etc., their effects, even after just one use, can be detrimental to our children and our community.
Mickie Roberts serves as the lower and middle school Registrar. Our ParentEd. speaker, Laura Searcy, is the Chair of the Cobb County Allicance to Prevent Substance Abuse and is a registered nurse.
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