Vaping is becoming a youth epidemic nationwide, and it has a foothold in Excelsior Springs, impacting kids from middle school through high school.

Vaping combines the addictive qualities of nicotine with sleek electronic devices whose purposes are not always apparent. Furthermore, the delivery system of the nicotine doesn’t result in the telltale odor of tobacco — or of marijuana, as some users add THC oil to the mix.

A vaping device consists of several components: a mouthpiece; battery; cartridge that contains the e-liquid or e-juice; and a heating component that is powered by the battery. When in use, the heating component is activated by the battery, which turns the contents of the e-liquid in the cartridge into an aerosol that users can then inhale and exhale.

The heating coil burns off residue as the user inhales, and so users are also sometimes inhaling lead along with their chosen e-juice. This in itself is dangerous and has long-term health implications. And while the long-term health effects of the actual “vape” are not yet conclusive, the general consensus is that the chemicals involved in the making of the e-juice or e-liquid aren’t good, so that even the ones that don’t contain nicotine are potentially dangerous.

The ones that do contain nicotine contain as much as an entire pack of cigarettes. They are also much more expensive than cigarettes, which leads to many younger, addicted users making the switch to cigarettes in order to satisfy their addiction.

In addition, the newer vaping devices often go undetected by parents who may not know what they are seeing, Julia Mees, Director for ES SAFE explained. If a parent saw some of the newer devices, such as the JUUL or the Suorin, many would never guess they were nicotine delivery devices. Instead, the Suorin Airlooks like an MP3 player, and doesn’t even have a mouthpiece. The JUUL looks just like a USB and can even be charged on a laptop.

The JUUL resembles a USB device.

“We want parents and kids to understand the risks involved in vaping. The e-liquid in e-cigarettes contains nicotine and other chemicals, which are addictive and harmful.  When developing teen brains are exposed to nicotine, they are much more likely to become addicted to nicotine as well as other substances in the future, due to changes in the reward centers of the brain with nicotine exposure,” Mees explained. “Also, kids who vape are twice as likely to become cigarette smokers.”

She explained that it is common for kids to be vaping marijuana, and that it’s harder for caring adults to detect, because vaping does not create the typical smell of smoking marijuana.

The Suorin Air is another popular vaping device.

“Parents need to be aware that vaping is easy to hide and very harmful to the developing teen brain. The later in life the initiation of substance use, the more developed the brain becomes and the less likely addiction will occur,” Mees explained. “We encourage parents to keep positive lines of communication open with their teen so that they can discuss vaping and other similar issues with their teen. Research consistently shows that parents are the most powerful influence when it comes to kids choosing to use substances, including nicotine. Parents need to model healthy behavior, and set a clear expectation for their child that they expect their child to be substance free, including nicotine.”

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