Kids in the Mist
Chances are good you’ve seen a group of young people with misty clouds billowing around their heads. Sitting in their cars, standing on street corners, and in plenty of other places, they’ve become big fans of “vaping.”
But how is this habit actually impacting them?
The Rise of Vaping
In our community (in Central Florida) billboards for clubs, bars, and tobacco outlets have been popping up with increased frequency advertizing “vaping” to their clients. In case you have no idea what vaping is, Vapor Soul’s website defines it as “the act of inhaling vapor from e-liquid through a personal vaporizer.” And in case you find that definition as nebulous as me, here’s what vaping actually looks like.
The key term in the definition is “e liquid,” also known as “e juice.” This water-based liquid contains vegetable glycerine (VG) or propylene glycol (PG) or both, and is often infused with nicotine and various flavors of the user’s choice.
While users often look like Puff the Magic Dragon, vaping boasts several advantages over the “classic” cigarette. For starters, there’s no bad smell or bad breath. And, since it uses a battery-powered vaporizer instead of an actual fire, there are no risks of burns (and no use for ashtrays). “Vapers” also say it’s cheaper than smoking cigarettes in the long run, and some even believe that vaping can help cigarette smokers quit the habit altogether.
Finally, vapers also tout their habit to be less likely to result in cancer (or other smoking-related diseases) than conventional cigarettes. Granted, vaping “may” be safer than smoking cigarettes – though most experts say it’s still too early to tell – but that’s kinda like saying wrestling kittens is safer than wrestling rabies-infested bears that are wielding lightsabers. Almost anything is safer than that.
While experts argue whether or not vaping is safe, the one thing they do agree on is this: it’s catching on with teens. Young people are drawn to the habit for a variety of reasons including relatively low costs, the availability of flavored e juices, the ability to vape in places where smoking isn’t allowed, and of course, good old curiosity. One report found that more high school seniors used e-cigarettes (vaporizers) than traditional tobacco-based cigarettes. And given the rise of “competitive vaping” – yes, that’s a real thing – it’s likely to get more popular still.
Cause for Concern?
As stated above, researchers largely agree that the evidence available so far suggests vaping is dramatically less dangerous than cigarettes. Of course, this claim has its fair share of dissenters – like this report issued by toxicologists that claim vapers could be “more susceptible to any kind of infection” because of their habit. But what we do know is this: because of vaping’s popularity, nicotine use is on the rise even though tobacco use has leveled off.
So, how should parents and youth leaders address this issue with their teens? Here are two very simple strategies you can employ with kids in your life who vape (or want to vape).
- Ask questions. Lots of them. But don’t do it from an accusatory posture. Simply engage your teenager about the subject, and find out what they know, what they think, and what they’re doing. For instance, you might ask:
- Have you heard of vaping?
- Why do you think it’s increasing in popularity?
- Do you have any friends who vape? (If so, does it seem to have any effect on them?)
- Have you tried it? If so, why? If not, why not?
- When it comes to vaping, what do you think your course of action should be?
- Live your message. In other words, practice what you preach. If you don’t want the kids in your lives to vape, then avoid it in your life, as well. There’s nothing wrong with a good lesson, but humans – young people in particular – always respond better to a powerful example. So give it to them.
Just because plenty of other teens are enveloped in a white cloud of cotton candy-flavored nicotine vapors doesn’t mean your teen has to be. Clear the air with plenty of conversation and a great example.
David R. Smith
David R. Smith is the author of several books including Christianity... It's Like This and speaks to parents and leaders across the U.S. David is a 15-year youth ministry veteran, now a senior pastor, who specializes in sharing the gospel, and equipping others do the same. David provides free resources to anyone who works with teenagers on his website, DavidRSmith.org David resides with his wife and son in Tampa, Florida.