E-cigarettes, also known as vapes, are being used more and more by young people, and understandably parents are growing more concerned.
In fact, new research from Cancer Council NSW’s Generation Vape study shows almost one third of the NSW teenagers sampled had tried vaping and nearly 80% found it easy to get their hands on a vape.
In this blog, we’re here to answer 5 FAQs from the growing number of parents looking for honest answers about e-cigarettes:
1. Vapes are just as addictive as cigarettes
E-cigarettes work differently to regular cigarettes as they use battery power to heat liquids to an aerosol which can be inhaled (instead of burning to produce smoke). They also often look like USBs or highlighters.
But what makes e-cigarettes similar to regular cigarettes is that they usually contain a variety of harmful additives and cancer-causing chemicals such as nicotine, flavourings such as diacetyl and heavy metals like nickel, tin and lead.
We’re hearing from parents that the nicotine withdrawals, partnered with adolescent emotions, is making it incredibly challenging for families. Nicotine addiction is a serious issue, even more so for young people at school. We also know that young people who vape are three times as likely to go on to smoke cigarettes.
2. Vapes are flavoured to appeal to young people
Common e-cigarette flavours include strawberry, watermelon, and peach. The flavours are designed to appeal to young people that might only vape because they like how they taste or smell – they may not be aware of the amount of nicotine they are consuming.
A common challenge we’ve heard from parents is that it’s hard to know if your child has been using e-cigarettes, because they don’t smell like cigarettes, they smell like fruits instead.
3. Vapes affect development of the teenage brain
As well as addiction, using nicotine as a teenager can harm the parts of the brain that control attention, learning, mood, and impulse control.
Each time a new memory is created, or a new skill is learned, stronger connections are built between brain cells – these are called synapses. Young people’s brains build synapses faster than adult brains, and nicotine changes the way these synapses are formed.
These changes not only re-enforce addiction to nicotine, but they also increase the risk of future addiction to other drugs.
4. Governments need to do more about to protect young people
Based on the emerging research, Cancer Council NSW is actively asking governments to stop the retail sale of all vaping products, whether they contain nicotine or not.
As a first step, governments need to stop young people getting e-cigarettes without medical authority and pushing for more effective tobacco control.
To protect our kids and prevent a new generation of smokers, we believe governments need to improve policy, monitoring, and enforcement, as well as improving education on the risks of e-cigarettes.
5. Parents can help by talking about vaping with their children:
We believe that parents can play a pivotal role in curbing the influence of vaping on the current generation of young people. Our advice to parents is to:
K. Know the facts
Know the facts or where to find them from a reputable source – Cancer Council has plenty of resources and information available, including a factsheet designed specifically for parents.
E. Engage in the topic
Engage in the topic in a relaxed and natural way. Use the cues around you: a note home from the school, a person using a device, a story on the news as the way into the conversation and the way to keep the conversation open.
Y. You know your child
You know your child; communicate with them in ways that work for you and allow you to provide them with the right information to make healthy decisions.
What do I do if my child is already addicted?
If you are concerned that your child may be experiencing nicotine withdrawal, speak to your paediatrician or doctor.