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As Teen Vaping Spreads, WA Doctor Says Speak to Kids Early

One in 10 eighth graders tried e-cigarettes in 2018, according to a Washington state survey. (aleksandr_yu/Adobe Stock)
One in 10 eighth graders tried e-cigarettes in 2018, according to a Washington state survey. (aleksandr_yu/Adobe Stock)
May 9, 2019

SEATTLE – With the number of teenagers who use e-cigarettes rising, what can parents do to stop the trend?

According to the 2018 Washington State Healthy Youth Survey, 30% of 12th graders in the state used vaping products, up from 20% in 2016.

Dr. Susanna Block, a pediatrician with Kaiser Permanente, says young people sometimes don't know that vape pens, e-cigarettes and products such as Juul are the same thing and have health effects similar to smoking, especially for developing brains.

Block suggests parents talk to their children in late middle school or early high school about this.

"We can give them accurate information before they're getting all their information from their friends, and since we know two-thirds of high school students didn't realize e-cigarettes contained nicotine, I think it's very easy to have misinformation spread," she states.

The Healthy Youth Survey found one in 10 eighth graders tried e-cigarettes in 2018.

Block says there are some physical signs parents can look for to see if their children are vaping, such as acne around the mouth, nosebleeds, coughing and even recurring pneumonia.

She also says parents should be on the lookout for the sweet-flavored smells of some vape pens or unfamiliar electronics used for battery charging.

E-cigarette cartridges can contain as much nicotine as a pack of cigarettes and are dangerous if ingested.

Block says these products are geared to appeal to middle and high school students, with interesting flavors and names and funny packaging that often make it hard to tell what they contain.

"One thing that we do know is that these e-cigarettes are a gateway to using traditional cigarettes,” she points out. “So, this is really a product that is designed to addict an entire new generation to tobacco."

Block says the marketing for e-cigarettes gives parents a chance to teach their children to be smart consumers.

On the positive end, Block applauds this year's passage of a bill in Washington state to raise the sale age for tobacco and vape products to 21 starting in 2020.

Disclosure: Kaiser Health Plan of Washington Project contributes to our fund for reporting on Alcohol and Drug Abuse Prevention, Health Issues, Hunger/Food/Nutrition, Senior Issues. If you would like to help support news in the public interest, click here.
Eric Tegethoff, Public News Service - WA