While COVID-19 has grabbed the headlines, it has overshadowed another health crisis in the Silver State – youth vaping, which is addicting teens to nicotine and damaging their brains and bodies. Without concerted effort from adults, community leaders, and elected officials, this dangerous habit won’t be going away any time soon.
“Youth vaping has skyrocketed over the past several years. In 2019 our state lawmakers recognized the need to reduce youth use of vape products and prevent additional youth from starting,” said Kelli Goatley-Seals, president of Nevada Tobacco Prevention Coalition. “NTPC has worked with national and statewide leaders in vaping prevention to develop a campaign to educate youth and adults about the short and long-term dangers of using vape products.”
This work was made possible with the passing of Senate Bill 263, which generated additional funds for the tobacco control and prevention program.
Since 2014, this epidemic has gained popularity among Nevada’s youth at an alarming rate. Vaping companies have fueled this fire by hyper-targeting youth and creating a deception around the harms of consuming their product. Vaping companies, many owned by Big Tobacco, continue to spend lavishly on propaganda and to hire teen influencers to normalize and encourage the vaping culture. According to 2019 YRBS a shocking 22.5% of Nevada high school students reported using vapes . In fact, almost half of all Nevada teens 18 and under have already tried vaping.
There’s no such thing as a safe vape.
Flavors play a significant role in drawing kids to e-cigarettes, and flavored products are often the first reason youth use tobacco products Kids who had ever used e-cigarettes had seven times higher odds of using cigarettes within a year, compared with those who had never used e-cigarettes, according to a new Truth Initiative study.
“These products have spread throughout our communities, and their popularity among children is due to one factor: flavors that are intentionally meant to appeal to kids, like cotton candy, Kool-Aid grape, gummy bear, and fruity hoops” says U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin, Illinois.
Yet the vaping industry continues to manipulate teens into thinking vapes are harmless. Through evidence-based research, data, and surveys, it has been found that they are not. According to studies:
• Most Nevadan teens take their first vape hit at 15 years old.
• Kids are more at risk for addiction to the nicotine contained in vapes because their brains are still developing. This often leads to nicotine addiction.
• The exposure of a young brain to nicotine can cause mood disorders and permanently lower impulse control.
• E-cigarette vapor inflames airways, producing “sticky mucus” and phlegm that gets trapped in the lungs, causing major breathing problems at a young age.
• Chemical burns in the lungs of vapers from nicotine and THC resemble the damage that was seen in the lungs of WWI soldiers who inhaled mustard gas.
What about those kids who are already hooked? Research shows 72% of Nevada’s 13–18-year-olds who already vape want to quit. And to highlight the extremes of addiction, 44% of them have already tried to quit 10 times or more.Did you know there has been a 45% increase in teens reporting they have vaped in the last 30 days (2017-19)? Vape products are designed to appeal to kids and are widely available through family, friends, online, and lax vape shops. And kids tend to believe that the vapes sold in these stores are safe to use.
It can be hard to spot a vape device your teen is using. They come in all kinds of shapes, colors and designs. These products can look pen-like, box-like, or the small inexpensive disposables look just like a portable USB drive and hide easily in the palm of your hand. But there are some basics that stay the same: Vapes generally consist of a battery, a heating element, a mouthpiece, and a tank or cartridge for e-liquid (also known as “vape juice”).
No matter the shape or what is in the juice, every device comes with serious risks.
What can parents do about it?
NTPC has developed “Behind the Haze,” a five-part public education campaign to educate teens about the dangers of vaping and unveil the unethical tactics of the vaping industry. Campaign messages on Snapchat, YouTube, Instagram and online at BehindTheHazeNV.com, are only starting to sink in. However, the goal of reducing the youth vaping in Nevada has just begun. Behavior change takes time, and this is a marathon, not a sprint. Continual funding will be needed to support these efforts.
The “Let’s Talk Vaping” campaign at LetsTalkVaping.com, delivers a resource to educate parents and other adult influencers on what’s really in vapes, their harms, how to talk to your teen, and resources on how to stop. You’ve probably already recognized ads on the radio, TV, online or on social media. Essentially, Let’s Talk Vaping is the tool parents need to educate themselves to support their teens.
Here’s the bottom line: our kids are trying vapes and quickly becoming addicted to nicotine; often in quantities as high as a pack of 20 cigarettes. We can slow this “silent epidemic” if we all take steps to have honest conversations with them.
Visit www.LetsTalkVaping.com to learn how to talk with the teens in your life. If you would like to learn more about these youth campaigns, visit www.TobaccoFreeNV.org.