Grand Futures: Vaping on the rise, rampant in Routt County schools | SteamboatToday.com

Grand Futures: Vaping on the rise, rampant in Routt County schools

We live in a healthy, active community, and we know the harmful effects of smoking cigarettes. During the past 20 years, Americans have experienced a culture shift when it comes to smoking tobacco. In fact, cigarette smoking rates among high school students have dropped to the lowest levels since the National Youth Risk Behavior Survey began in 1991, according to the 2013 results released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. But there is a flipside to this story.

According to the National Institute of Health's annual Monitoring The Future survey released in December, nearly 1 in 3 students in 12th grade report using some kind of vaping device in the last year. In Colorado, according to the 2015 Healthy Kids Colorado Survey results, 46% of middle and high school students have used an e-smoking device in their lifetime, and in Routt County, students reported usage in line with the state average.

What is vaping and what should you be mindful of when it comes to your children?

Vaping is a term introduced by the electronic nicotine delivery system industry to refer to any electronic vaporizer, such as E-cigs, Vapes, vape pens, vaporizers and E-hookahs. Often, this term makes people think these devices produce a harmless water vapor, but that isn't the case.

Instead of burning tobacco, e-cigarettes most often use a battery powered coil to turn a liquid solution into an aerosol that is inhaled by the user. Vaping or electronic cigarettes can refer to a wide variety of products. Some look like cigarettes, but others look like a small pen or USB device. One e-cigarette device, called a JUUL, has become increasingly popular in recent years.

They are small, look like a flash drive and are discrete enough that they can be used at school and even in the classroom according to Dennis Hensen, dean of students for Steamboat Springs High School. A representative of the Steamboat Springs Teen Council stated that four out of five students have a JUUL. They are everywhere, and everyone knows how to get one.

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JUUL, which first came on the market in 2015, has seen a 621 percent increase in sales year over year and a 32 percent market share, according to a recent article from Business Insider. They are sold in convenience stores across the country as well as online, making them easier and more accessible than store-bought cigarettes.

A JUUL device costs about $35 with a four-pack of pods, or refills, for about $16. The brand is rapidly becoming the Marlboro of the 21st century, and the brand has not shied away from tactics that entice youth with colorful, eye-catching designs and youth-oriented imagery as well as flavors that are attractive to young pallets, such as mango and fruit melody.

What can you do about it?

Often, we see teenagers turning to substance use as a way to cope with stress. Help them to identify stressors in their lives and to find healthier ways to work through those challenges.

Talk to your kids. Contrary to common assumptions, young people care about their health and are interested in talking about this subject. Remember, teenagers are adept at identifying and rejecting disingenuous lectures, so approach discussions as learning opportunities for you both. Take a fact-based approach; otherwise, you may find your son or daughter becoming defensive and your conversation ineffective.

For more information and helpful resources about vaping and other substance use issues, visit grandfutures.org.

Lindsey Simbeye is the executive director at Grand Futures Prevention Coalition.