As a parent of a teenager, you need to be aware of the ways teens are getting high and exposing themselves to addictive and toxic substances. Some means of ingesting alcohol, tobacco, and other drugs can be fairly obvious, but others have lesser known signs or have taken on new forms in recent years. Other times, parents excuse certain behaviors as “boys will be boys” or “kids will be kids,” not realizing the danger to which they’re exposing themselves.
Sometimes parents are completely oblivious and deny the possibility that their son or daughter could possibly fall prey to these behaviors. Sometimes teens can unintentionally become addicted or ingest toxins simply because they’re not the toxins or drugs they’ve heard of or been warned about, before. So, parents, let’s educate ourselves — and our teens — about some real dangers hiding behind innocent-looking activities. The first one we’ll look at is electronic cigarettes.
Basic Components and Process
Also referred to as e-cigarettes, e-cigs, or electronic nicotine delivery systems, these battery-operated devices have been marketed as a tool for quitting smoking, much like the patch. E-cigs consist of three basic parts:
1. Heating Element (or Atomizer)
2. Power Source (usually a lithium battery)
3. Cartridge (in lieu of a filter, as in traditional cigarettes)
Those who use e-cigs are referred to as “vapers” rather than “smokers,” because there really isn’t smoke involved. Or a flame, or ashes. Instead, the battery allows the heating element to convert the liquid in the cartridge into a vapor when inhalation occurs. Unlike a traditional smoking experience, the nicotine is delivered to the bloodstream through the soft tissue of a person’s cheeks, rather than through the lungs.
Reasons for Teen Appeal
Three basic reasons make teens extremely susceptible to the dangers of e-cigs. First, they’re still completely legal to sell to minors in many states and currently outside the bounds of FDA regulations. Those things combine to allow the illusion that there really isn’t significant risk associated with e-cigs. They’re also widely available online and even in mall kiosks.
Second, e-cigs are marketed and designed in ways that typically appeal to the teen and young adult crowd: Sometimes cartoon characters are used, and the flavors are especially interesting to this demographic: fruit and candy flavors, as well as coffee and mint, are popular choices.
Third, they’re easy to hide. With over 250 e-cig brands out there and more models being designed all the time, it can be difficult to keep up with the forms e-cigs can take. Sometimes they look similar to regular cigarettes or cigars, but others look more like everyday items like USB thumb drives or pens, making them easy to hide among school supplies and even to use during class.
To read about the risks involved in e-cig use, check out Part 2.