Teen e-cigarette use on the rise

If you have a loved one in high school, chances are they have been exposed to vaping and they may even be doing it themselves.

You have to be 19 years old to purchase nicotine products in our state, but the Alabama Department of Public Health says 1 in 4 Alabama teens are using e-cigarettes.

The newest generation of e-cigarettes comes in a variety of flavors that are enticing for youth and because they lack the foul odor of regular lit cigarettes they can make them seem less harmful.

These newer e-cigarettes are also tiny and easy for students to hide, specifically the JUUL. The device is barely bigger than a USB drive. The state's tobacco control coordinator Michelle Lassey warns people with loved ones in high school that the JUUL is so tiny students are able to hide it in their backpack, pockets and even up their sleeves. They can even sometimes get away with smoking in the classroom by blowing the smoke back into their sleeves so no vapor is seen.

"They can do it anytime so parents don't notice it, teachers don't notice it. They can charge it on a laptop. So if a parent is walking by their laptop they think that they just have a flash drive when, in actuality, they are charging their electronic cigarette," says Michelle Lassey.

One JUUL pod has the same amount of nicotine as an entire pack of cigarettes.

Lassey says another issue is that because these products are so user-friendly, people are not having to go outside to take a smoke break like they used too.
e-cigarette users are now able to smoke more often and that can lead to taking in even more nicotine than they would if they were smoking regular cigarettes.

The age to purchase tobacco products in Alabama is 19 and 21  the Lassey says youth are sometimes able to purchase these products online or through the help of an adult and sometimes online.

The JUUL website requires users to be 21 years of age to purchase an e-cigarette and requires the last four digits of the user's social security number as part of the verification process.

E-cigarettes are not FDA regulated so Lassey says even though a product may say it does not contain nicotine, there is really no way to know what chemicals the product contains.

The CDC says the best way to prevent your child from using tobacco products is to have a conversation with them about the dangers of tobacco use.

Sometimes conversations about sensitive subjects that may offend your teen can be difficult. The office of the United States Surgeon General says a good way to start the conversation is by educating them on the dangers of using cigarettes.

Nicotine is the addictive factor that's in tobacco and in also in e-cigarettes. Though they may not have the same amount of chemicals in them as traditional lit tobacco, e-cigarettes have the nicotine in them which can get kids addicted,  keep them addicted and which may in the future lead them to other forms of tobacco according to Lassey with the Alabama Department of Public Health.

According to the U.S. Surgeon General, nicotine use by adolescents can impact their learning ability, memory and attention. They are also potentially exposing themselves to harmful substances including heavy metals, volatile organic compounds, and ultra fine particles that can be inhaled deeply into their lungs.

Here are some of the other recommendations for parents who want to have a conversation with their child regarding smoking.

  • When you have a conversation with your teen regarding smoking, it is recommended you avoid criticism.
  • Remember to have a conversation and try not to simply give a lecture.
  • It's okay for the conversation to happen over time and not all at once.
  • You can start the conversation organically by bringing it up when you see someone using an e-cigarette -- on TV or in person.

If your child or someone you know is ready to quit smoking you can visit smokefree.gov or call the hotline at 1-800-QUIT-NOW

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