NMC Commentary

Healthy Resolution? Talk to a Teen About Vaping

As the New Year approaches, it is natural to think about making resolutions.  Typically, we think about things focused on ourselves and how we might be healthier or happier.  This year, I would like to suggest you consider a resolution to help someone else be healthier. Resolve to talk to the teens in your life about vaping.  It may not be the easiest conversation, but it is so important and can make such a difference in their lives.

Last week, the National Institute of Health issued a news release which said “America’s teens report a dramatic increase in their use of vaping devices in just a single year, with 37.3 percent of 12th graders reporting ‘any vaping’ in the past 12 months, compared to just 27.8 percent in 2017.” Equally concerning, “Reported use of vaping nicotine specifically in the 30 days prior to the survey nearly doubled among high school seniors from 11 percent in 2017 to 20.9 percent in 2018.”

How relevant are these trends in our community? Very. We are seeing it. When NMC shared the data with local community partners, one of our RiseVT staff replied, “While skiing today with my kids, a group of teens were vaping right in front of us while we were waiting for the shuttle and one even used it while we were on the shuttle. Very casually. My kids noticed. I felt like I was back in smoking days where everyone smoked around everyone!”

She is right. Vaping risks taking us back to the days of smoking being almost a norm. After years of reductions in youth smoking which is so important to good health, we are seeing this concerning increase in vaping.  “Teens are clearly attracted to the marketable technology and flavorings seen in vaping devices; however, it is urgent that teens understand the possible effects of vaping on overall health; the development of the teen brain; and the potential for addiction,” said Nora D. Volkow, M.D., Director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse. “Research tells us that teens who vape may be at risk for transitioning to regular cigarettes, so while we have celebrated our success in lowering their rates of tobacco use in recent years, we must continue aggressive educational efforts on all products containing nicotine.”

I am asking you to join in the effort to turn this concerning trend around. While the vaping companies are well funded and advertising heavily, your voice carries great importance.  Adults can have a strong influence on a young person’s use of e-cigarettes.  To get a conversation started, the U.S. Surgeon General’s website recommends avoiding criticism and encouraging an open dialogue – remembering “your goal is to have a conversation, not to deliver a lecture” and that “it’s okay for your conversation to take place over time, in bits and pieces.”  There is a wonderful resource for conversations with kids about e-cigarettes located at: https://e-cigarettes.surgeongeneral.gov/documents/SGR_ECig_ParentTipSheet_508.pdf  It will help you with answers to questions that teens may ask.

2019 offers great promise for healthier lifestyles and better health. Play your part as an influential adult in the lives of young people and talk to teens about vaping.  Let them know you care about them and their future. Help them find the facts and make good choices to preserve their health. That’s a resolution that will make a difference!

— Jill Berry Bowen, RN, NMC’s Chief Executive Officer