The Dangerous Products Our Kids Think Are Safe

It is a simple fact that kids and teens are susceptible to peer pressure and advertising.

Especially in this age of social media, kids want to fit in more than ever before – and this often means experimenting with trends that can be dangerous.

Now scientists and physicians are warning parents that a product developed to help adults may have serious consequences for our teens.

In the past few years, vaping has grown in popularity with adults who are trying to kick the habit of smoking cigarettes.

In fact, smoking – which was so much a part of adult culture in generations past – is finally being seen for how dangerous it is, and cigarette smoking is on the decline.

Vapes and e-cigarettes were developed to assist adults who wanted to quit smoking but had failed in previous attempts.

Manufacturers, with the help of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), have encouraged adults who have not been successful in quitting on their own to try vaping, citing the side effects of lighting and inhaling a combustible product as more harmful than the nicotine contained in cigarettes.

But this very message has caused many teens to believe that vaping is harmless.

And like generations past who took up smoking to look or feel “cool,” today’s teens are doing the same with vape devices and e-cigs.

This has the FDA and scientists concerned, however, because these chemicals are not harmless and, in fact, may be more dangerous for children than adults.

Approximately 12 out of hundred teens now say they vape compared to only two out of a hundred ten years ago.

The products are fairly unregulated and even though manufacturers require teens to be 18 just like with cigarettes, e-cigs and vaping devices are quite easy for younger teens to acquire.  Just like back in our day, younger high schoolers have little trouble finding an 18-year-old friend to purchase these products for them.

It is even easier to buy them online.

USA Today reported on one such story from a pediatrician in Pennsylvania who had worked with a teen patient to help her quit smoking.  She started vaping instead.

“She was the one that said to me, ‘It’s not tobacco. It’s safe, and it’s a way for me to not miss my cigarettes. And it even smells good,'” Fenimore says. “She showed it to me, and it smelled just like a lollipop. And I thought, ‘Oh, no,'” said Dr. Pia Fenimore.

The FDA recently released a statement clarifying the dangers of these products for teens, even though they can benefit the health of adult smokers.

The statement reads in part:

…the marketing of the product is appropriate for the protection of the health of the overall population [but] we need a regulatory process that keeps these same electronic cigarette products out of the hands of youth.

But let me be clear that nicotine isn’t a benign substance. This is especially true when it comes to children, and the effects that nicotine has on a developing brain.

…the marketing of the product is appropriate for the protection of the health of the overall [but] e-cigs have become an almost ubiquitous ‒ and dangerous ‒ trend among teens. The disturbing and accelerating trajectory of use we’re seeing in youth, and the resulting path to addiction, must end.

The FDA has partnered with the Federal Trade Commission to make sure that these products created for adults are not mislabeled as being “safe.”

Of particular concern is the fact that manufacturers are creating products in a variety of styles and colors, and with flavors like cotton candy, chocolate, fruit, or bubble gum in their vape “juices.”

These products and how they’re marketed pose a significant problem for parents.

How do we let our kids know that they are dangerous for them when they do offer a significant benefit to adults?

Well, the same way we approach many of our parenting situations.

We must open up a discussion with our children about the dangers of these products, be available for questions and give open and honest answers, and of course, make it clear that like alcohol and cigarettes, these products are for adult use only.

And if you see anything that may seem “off” about your child, our parental instincts are usually right.

Although teens who vape will not smell like cigarette smoke, they may still have bloodshot eyes or be irritable or exhibit other signs of nicotine withdrawal.

These devices and their refills are not cheap, either.  If you notice your child is spending more money — or asking you for more if they are not working — it may be a sign they are putting money into e-cigarettes or other vaping devices.

Dr. Fenimore also says parents should go online and view pictures of these devices so they know what to look for in their homes.

There is some good news, though.  Many of today’s kids have benefited from a generation of campaigns aimed at preventing smoking in both teens and adults.

Cigarettes are no longer allowed to be advertised or sold in vending machines as they often were in our day.

And many of today’s teens have gotten the message that smoking – or the use of other chemical products – can have serious health consequences.

Studies have uncovered an ironic twist, however.

Teens who have never smoked cigarettes but vape or use e-cigs are actually more likely to switch to cigarettes later on.

It is also worth noting – both for our teens and adult smokers looking to quit – that so-called “natural” or “herbal” cigarettes sold in stores and online are unequivocally just as dangerous as traditional cigarettes.  As the FDA notes, it is the combustible nature of cigarettes that is the most dangerous aspect.

Our kids must learn – from us – that these devices are not safe.  The chemicals they contain are not harmless.

And like everything else we do as parents, modeling good behavior is key.  If you vape, talk to your kids about why you do so (perhaps making them aware of how hard you are working to quit smoking for your health).

Reinforce good habits and be available and present.  These aspects of parenting always prove to serve us well.

What do you think of the vaping epidemic among teens?  Are you a former smoker who has switched to vaping?  If so, how do you address the topic with your teens?  Leave us your comments.

 

 

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