By Nora Heston
Teaching children to “just say no” is a cardinal rules of parenting. Say no to alcohol, say no to drugs, say no to cigarettes. However, as a parent, it’s hard to stay up-to-date on the new trends teens are embracing. Teens have been known to get creative with the resources they have available to them and this has resulted in one of the newest fads: electronic cigarettes, or e-cigarettes. Not only are they less regulated than conventional cigarettes, but they are easily accessible and could be promoting marijuana use as well.
“It’s too early to tell whether children are gravitating toward eCigs; we have no data in Arizona that states as such,” according to DrugFreeAZ (www.drugfreeaz.org). “But whenever substances are accessible and available to our youth, the track record on legal alcohol and tobacco shows that manufacturers and distributors will be aggressive in their efforts to enlist young consumers in the lifelong use of habit-forming substances.”
These battery-operated devices were originally created to help those addicted to nicotine to quit smoking. However, a smoke shop employee who asked to remain anonymous says, “It’s getting more people addicted to nicotine than it’s helping others quit.”
The statistics are alarming. According to a survey published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), e-cigarette usage has more than doubled among U.S. middle and high school students. Additionally, 1 in 5 middle school students who’ve tried an e-cigarette say they’ve never smoked a conventional cigarette. However, more than 75 percent of youth users smoke conventional cigarettes as well, according to the CDC. “Nicotine is a highly addictive drug,” says CDC Director Tom Frieden, M.D., M.P.H. “Many teens who start with e-cigarettes may be condemned to struggling with a lifelong addiction to nicotine and conventional cigarettes.”
The idea was to create an alternative to cigarettes that supplied users with the nicotine they craved without the tar or many other chemicals found in traditional cigarettes.
“While e-cigarettes do not produce tobacco smoke, it is still unclear how safe they are,” Drugabuse.org states. “They still deliver nicotine, which is a highly addictive drug. Also, vapor from some e-cigarette products has been found to contain known carcinogens and toxic chemicals. Until more studies are conducted, there is no way of knowing what the health consequences of repeated exposure to these chemicals may be, whether e-cigarettes are any safer than conventional cigarettes or if they are useful to help a person quit smoking.”
The kid connection
Perhaps the most alarming fact is how these e-cigarettes are being marketed to children. The Arizona State Senate passed a law in 2010 that restricted the sale of e-cigarettes to minors, making it illegal to knowingly sell an e-cigarette to anyone under the age of 18.
This doesn’t change how e-cigarette companies are choosing to appeal to the younger consumer market. With flavors like Sweet Tarts, Pink Starbursts, Cinnamon Rolls and Banana Nut Bread, it’s easy to see why children think these e-cigarettes are for them.
The smoke shop employee says her specific shop sells more than 150 different flavors, many of which sound more like candy than a dangerous, addictive substance that could cause cancer.
Smoking marijuana and other e-cigarette trends
Perhaps what many people don’t realize is that “vaping,” or smoking the e-juice that can be purchased at a smoke shop through a type of e-cigarette called a vape pen, is legal. In fact, the only obstacle minors would face in attempting to “vape” would be obtaining e-juice, which is restricted for sale to anyone under the age of 18.
The average cigarette contains 18 mg of nicotine. E-juice, however, is readily available in nicotine levels up to 24 mg (but can be purchased free of nicotine, as well).
Another trend the e-cigarette craze has produced is a new avenue for teens to smoke marijuana.
The smoke shop employee confirms that there are cartomizers that are called “skillets,” which are used for “concentrates.” These are accessible through medical dispensaries or can be made on your own. Costing approximately $20-$50 for a quarter-sized gram, a lot of teens are figuring out ways to obtain it. With the simple attachment of a $15-$20 adapter, teens can smoke concentrated hash through an e-cigarette. Not only does this help teens get away with smoking in public, but the hash they are smoking is at average 60-90 percent THC, compared to marijuana, which is only 15-28 percent THC. This results in a quicker and more intense high.
Help your teen by informing yourself of the risks and habits associated with this trend. The more you know about e-cigarettes, the more you can help your teen stay away.
Like with other substances, it’s important to talk to your child about the dangers associated with smoking e-cigarettes. Equipping your teen with as much knowledge as possible may help them make the right decision when it comes to smoking e-cigarettes.
Don’t be afraid to practice saying no. Teaching your child how to say no may help them know what to say if they are ever faced with the opportunity to smoke e-cigarettes. Teens are often most concerned with how their peers will view them if they say no, so brainstorm creative ways your teen can turn down their friends without feeling embarrassed. Peer pressure can be more dangerous than you think.
The Four Main Types of E-Cigarettes
1. Disposable “600 puff” flavored e-cigarette (most affordable and popular among the teen crowd); these come in all different levels of nicotine (usually 0mg, 6mg, 12 mg and 18mg; 18 being equal to a standard cigarette).
2. Disposable cigarettes, like the “Blu” ones that are everywhere, are cartridges (with an unknown mixture of nicotine and vegetable glycerin and probably other chemicals that aren’t supposed to be in your lungs).
3. The pen and cartridge is the most popular kind of e-cigarette among many shops. They last as long as you take care of them and usually work off of a button push. You attach a cartridge/cartomizer to the pen that you fill yourself with whichever “e-juice liquid” you want. (These are popular among teens especially because they allow the kid to get a “bigger hit,” which many attribute to “looking cool.”)
4. The RDA (rebuildable drip atomizer) is a monster e-cigarette. They aren’t too popular among teens because they can run around $100, minimum. They’re composed of a battery housing for an external battery. You wrap wire coils yourself and buy organic cotton or silica wick to hold the e-juice.
Learn more about educating your child about drugs at www.drugfreeaz.org