By Priscilla Behnke

Priscilla Behnke.

There’s been a growing trend among teens. E-cigarettes help long-time smokers by reducing the intake of harmful chemicals they inhale while burning traditional tobacco cigarettes, or helping others quit all together. Here are some things to consider when thinking about teen use of vape pens.

1.The “reduction in harm” discussion means just that, it’s less harmful, not harmless. Someone who has been smoking for years looking for a less harmful method is vastly different than a young member of the pink lung club beginning to use nicotine in this “safer” method.

  1. Not all liquid vapor is nicotine free, and they know it. When vaping first started becoming popular I had discussions with middle schoolers who tried vaping. They just wanted to try the fun flavor and were convinced it didn’t even have nicotine. In recent discussions, high schoolers admitted freely that they are vaping nicotine products, and in fact they seek it out. The higher the percentage the better.
  2. They are getting it from older friends and siblings. I called around and suggested that I wanted a starters kit but wanted to get around the pesky 18 and older law. The retailers informed me they were only going to sell to 18 and older. The teens I talked with informed me it wasn’t hard to find friends of age to get it for them; some even had siblings who would buy it for them.
  3. Why they use it might surprise you. One admitted not liking it saying it tasted like an expletive but wanted to appear cool. Another claimed most don’t like it but find it to be a huge stress reliever from what is going on at home or school. Home should be a refuge, but some of our teens are so stressed they are choosing to cope by vaping a poisonous substance in the school restroom, not developing skills that will help them become the confident, connected and successful people this world need.
  4. If you listen, they will talk; and if you talk, they will listen. Parents have more credibility with young people than any institution. If parents stand back and simply wish their kids aren’t involved in these drug trends than an influence vacuum is left to be filled by older friends and siblings in a school restroom with a toxic vapor.

Priscilla Benhke is program director for Maricopa CAASA and Be Awesome Youth Coalition.

This column appears in the February issue of InMaricopa.


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