Cigarette smoking was a commonplace activity midway through the previous century. Smoking was cool, sexy, made additionally enticing by its presence in blockbuster movies and popular television shows.
It took decades for science to catch up with culture. Not until 1966 did the federal government place a label on cigarette packages, warning of their danger.
Today, e-cigarettes are enjoying a similar popularity as to that of the original tobacco product, with one notable difference: the typical consumer is an adolescent.
The numbers are, indeed, alarming. According to a recent national survey from the University of Michigan 11 percent of high school seniors, 8 percent of 10th-graders, and 3.5 percent of eighth-graders reported vaping with nicotine in a one month period
This behavior is so prevalent that only the fourth time in a decade, Jerome Adams, the US Surgeon General, issued an advisory in December of last year. “I am officially declaring e-cigarette use [vaping] among youth an epidemic in the United States.”
The “juul” brand is a teen favorite, due to its small flash drive size, alluring flavors and most of all, immediate nicotine hit. A single cartridge or pod delivers the same amount of nicotine as a pack of cigarettes. It’s not unusual for a teen to go through an entire pod, or even two, in one day.
By and large, young people think vaping is harmless. It isn’t. Nicotine is a highly addictive drug, which renders vaping both psychologically and physically addicting.
Nicotine can play havoc with the adolescent brain, which is far more susceptible to this type of addiction than the adult brain. Research indicates that this substance can interfere with memory and attention processing in the brains of young people.
It is critical for health professionals, middle and high school personnel and especially, parents to learn more about the commonality and danger of vaping. Adolescents are a vulnerable population. By the time warning labels appear on vaping paraphernalia, much of the damage will already be done.