If you are like me, you are baffled by the sudden prevalence of middle school and high school-aged children across the country using electronic vapor products like e-cigarettes, Juuls, vapes or Monq pens. The trend scares me both as a parent and a school counselor.
Just like the big tobacco companies said when we were that age, even the most tame of these products is not intended for children under 18. However, just like when we were that age, the purveyors of these products are marketing them to children as their main attack. Their sleek designs and myriad of fruity flavor choices make it clear that the intention is not to simply help adults quit smoking. If they did that, eventually they would eliminate their whole market.
Many devices are specifically designed to not be obvious to the casual observer and designed to look like a normal pen or a USB.
According to an article on Sciencedaily.com, there are over 500 brands of e-cigarettes along with over 8,000 different flavored e-liquids available in the United States. In addition, according to a December article by Partnership for Drug-free Kids, 1 in 3 students in the 12th grade reported using a vaping device in the past year. Even here at Faith Lutheran, 1 in 4 high school students report using a vaping device in the past 30 days. As parents and school officials, what are we to think and what are we to do?
The good news in all of this is that according to the Center for Disease Control Youth Risk Behavior Survey, teenagers’ use of burnable tobacco is continuing to decrease each year. The bad news? Our knowledge of the risks of electronic vapor products is minimal. A small amount of research yields an overwhelming amount of information, explaining that we really don’t know much. What we know right now is that students who are using electronic vapor products could possibly be vaping products that contain THC, the main psychoactive chemical in marijuana, contain nicotine, a highly addictive toxin typically found in tobacco products but also found in insecticides, or contain flavored vapor. The damaging effects of chemicals like THC and nicotine are widely understood. THC use by young people, for instance, is connected to decreases in IQ, memory and cognition, while nicotine, because of its highly addictive nature, is associated with problems in adolescent brain development.
Monq pens come in various colors and blends for aromatherapy.
It may seem that vaping the flavored liquids that do not contain THC or nicotine is perfectly healthy, in fact Monq claims that their product can be used the same way one would use essential oils in a diffuser. They actually call it “Paleo Air,” . The main issue, according to the American Lung Association, is many flavors used in various vaping products can still contain chemicals that are known toxins, specifically diacetyl, 2,3 pentanedione, and acetoin, which are known to cause a scarring of the tiny air sacs in the lungs resulting in the thickening and narrowing of the airways. Symptoms include coughing, wheezing and shortness of breath, similar to the symptoms of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). Finally, in a study conducted by the Surgeon General, the research warned that heavy metals and tiny particles that can harm the lungs have been found in e-cigarette aerosol. With anything humans consume, it is imperative to know the ingredients and possible side effects.
Find additional information about e-cigarette aerosol from the CDC website.
So how should we as parents and schools react to all this? We all should react in a way that favors protecting our children from harm and educating them about these products. We have to inform them of the risks while expressing our desire that they do not choose behaviors that put them in harm’s way. Finally, we must actively try to prevent them from making these choices by putting in as many deterrents in the way as possible.
As Faith Lutheran Middle School and High school, we want to help in any way that we can. Jonathan Scott from Miles to Go Drug Education will be presenting to students in April as well as to parents about vaping at Coffee With the Counselors from 10:45a-11:45a on Wednesday, April 4th in the Chapel and Performing Arts Center (CPAC).
Just like with any risks to the wellbeing of our Faith Family, we ask that students and parents report what they see and hear. Faith will be informing parents of any report involving their child using any electronic vapor device, and reserves the right to require the student pass a mandatory drug test in the wake of the report. Students who bring electronic vapor devices to school, whether for use or for sale and regardless of the intention of the device being for nicotine, THC, or simply flavored vapor, are subject to immediate expulsion under Faith’s policy concerning look-alike drugs and/or drug paraphernalia as explained on page 6 of the Student and Parent Handbook.
We appreciate parent partnership in both educating our students and in staying vigilant. A united front is the most proactive way to address these concerns. We will continue to engage in dialogue with students about the risks and consequences of vaping and we encourage our parents to do the same.
Mr. Dan Buikema serves as the Director of Counseling at Faith Lutheran Middle School & High School in Las Vegas, NV.
In addition to the articles in linked in red, more information can be found at: