Unless you have been living under a rock, you have most likely noticed the sheer amount of young people vaping nowadays. Is this interest in vaping just happenstance, or is there a more nefarious explanation for this dramatic rise in adolescent vaping? Many people believe that vape companies are purposefully targeting youth, attempting to make life-long customers of this young and impressionable demographic.
An Overview of the Youth Vaping Epidemic
There has long been a battle to stop youth from using nicotine. It seemed that it was close to being won, with teen smoking at a record low as the world entered the 2010s. Then, vaping came along. Vaping was seen as the cool, new trend and was even marketed as being healthier than traditional smoking. This, combined with the multitude of flavors vapes are produced in, meant that almost all progress in the battle against nicotine was lost. Studies show that 2.1 million youth currently vape. Vaping at such a young age can cause a plethora of health issues, such as impaired brain development, cancer, and addiction. The youth vaping epidemic could easily cause millions of people life-long health problems due to making a bad decision while they were young.
How Do Vape Companies Target Youth?
Vape companies are masters of manipulation when it comes to convincing young people to pick up a vape. One of the most powerful tools at their disposal is social media. Vape companies will hire social media influencers to use their vape and post about it on their Instagram and TikTok accounts, in order to make vaping seem hip and cool. Young people who follow these influencers try to emulate them in every way possible, using whatever products they use, including vapes.
Another way vape companies have tried to target young people is with the flavors they produce, such as cotton candy and fruit punch. While companies claim their vapes are only meant for adults, these flavors are clearly meant to appeal to a younger crowd, and they do.
Vape companies have also had great success targeting youth with TV advertising. While their commercials are allegedly made for adults, you only need to view them once to see this is not the case. Vape ads targeting youth often play up the cool factor in a clear attempt at getting teens to take up vaping.
State and Federal Vape Regulations
In an attempt to combat teen vaping, state and federal governments have introduced multiple regulations regarding the sale of vapes. On the federal level, a new law was implemented in late 2019, raising the minimum age to buy tobacco products from 18 to 21. The idea behind this law is that it will be much harder for teens to get their hands on vapes, when no one in their school is old enough to purchase them.
State governments have been extremely active with anti-vaping legislation. All 50 states have laws prohibiting the sale of vapes to underage customers, 7 states have laws specifically banning vaping indoors, 5 states have banned the sale of flavored vapes, and 9 states have banned the online sale of vapes. Most of these regulations are intended to make it more difficult for young people to obtain vapes, while the flavor ban is intended to make vapes less appealing to young people.
Tips for Protecting Your Child from Youth Vaping
While the government is doing their part, it is also up to parents to do theirs. Parents are often the first, and strongest, line of defense when it comes to preventing their child from vaping. Here are a few tips for how best to accomplish this.
Monitor Their Use of Social Media
Pay attention to what your child is doing on social media and who they are following. To the extent you can, make sure they are not idolizing influencers who vape, or following any accounts that glamorize vaping. Our child’s social media can also tell you if they have already begun vaping through pictures they post, allowing early intervention to take place.
Educate Your Child on the Dangers of Vaping
Thanks to vaping originally being marketed as safer than smoking, many adolescents don’t understand just how dangerous vaping actually is. It is up to you to inform them of how deadly and addictive vaping can be. Making sure your child is educated on the health risks can make all the difference when someone offers them a vape.
Be a Role Model
Children look up to their parents, they want to be you and copy everything you do. Never vape in front of your children. If your children see you vape, they are much more likely to try it themselves.
One of the easiest ways to be involved with your child is to ask them questions. When it comes to vaping ask them things like:
- Has anyone tried to get you to vape?
- Do you know why vaping is unhealthy?
- Do any of your friends vape?
Questions like these help to start a dialogue, and let your child know that they can come to you if anyone is pressuring them to try vaping.
Outpatient Treatment for Youth Vaping Addiction
If your teen is vaping, you should get them into a vaping addiction treatment program as quickly as possible. These programs usually focus on family, individual, and group therapy. They attempt to get to the root of why your child is vaping and what will help them quit. You should not hesitate, the sooner treatment is started, the more likely it is to succeed.