Kid-focused public health campaigns and scary social media posts about lung injuries may be turning the tide against vaping, but changing devices and ingredients continue to make the battle against addiction a challenge.
To help reinforce ongoing work, organizers of the Berks County Medical Society Alliance annual health project have chosen adolescent and teen vaping as the topic of their March 30 event. Presentations will be dedicated to understanding the lure of e-cigarettes, clarifying confusion about their safety and preventing and treating addiction.Show Full Article
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Oftentimes, the children being directly targeted by marketers — with carefree ads and fruity flavors only recently banned by the federal government — would never dream of smoking a cigarette. But parents may not know what vaping smells or looks like, and families often have little idea just how dangerous the liquid formulas can be.
“The products continue to evolve,” said Teresa Detweiler, prevention specialist at the Council on Chemical Abuse. “It’s not like you’re just squeezing a strawberry into your mouth. There are chemicals in there that are going directly into your lungs — and probably nicotine, too.”
Detweiler provides cigarette and vaping prevention and cessation education across the county. She and Dr. Renee Riddle, a pediatrician with Tower Health, will be the keynote presenters at the Alliance event.
The organization has hosted an annual health education lecture for more than 45 years, recently featuring topics such as teen stress and building resilience; prevention of childhood and adolescent sports Injuries; managing diabetes; cyberbullying; and concussion recovery.
The program is designed for parents, teachers, school nurses, guidance counselors and school administrators, as well as other community members who work with youth.
“With vaping all over the headlines and the increase in use in the adolescent population, we felt it was a timely topic,” said Alliance President Michelle Trayer, a physical therapist. “It would benefit not only educators but also parents to become more informed on the dangers of vaping and how we can recognize and prevent adolescents from becoming addicted.”
The seminar will conclude with a panel discussion with the keynote speakers, an assistant principal, Reading School District’s director of student services, a student assistance program specialist from Caron Treatment Center and a high school student.
Riddle said recent press and widely publicized medical problems associated with vaping have increased awareness.
“However, I still think that there are a lot of misconceptions in the public about what is being used in the devices, safety and use as a smoking cessation aide,” Riddle said.
The devices themselves also may not look like parents expect, their sleek shapes mimicking USB drives rather than the boxy e-cigarettes of just a few years ago.
E-cigarettes were initially marketed as a way to wean cigarette users off traditional smoking. But Detweiler said their popularity started to soar among youth around 2016, and their health effects on children have only just started to become clear.
Riddle said inhaled chemicals, especially THC and vitamin E acetate, lead to lung damage, such as e-cigarette or vaping product use associated lung injury, or EVALI. The progressive non-infectious pneumonia causes increasing shortness of breath and low oxygen levels because of mild to life-threatening lung injury. It can be fatal.
Nicotine can also impact brain development through age 25, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Since 2011, research into vaping’s health impacts has exploded.
Not all users will develop major lung problems right away. Plenty of others develop an addiction that can lead to use of traditional nicotine cigarettes or other drugs, Detweiler noted. Efforts can’t stop at prevention, she said.
“We still have teens who were already exposed and possibly already addicted,” Detweiler said. “How do we treat those kids? We can’t just have discipline.”
She and Riddle will help event participants learn to screen for vaping use; identify in-person and virtual support resources; and suggest treatment options for vaping and nicotine addiction. They’ll also discuss policies that school districts can adopt that allow children to seek treatment without punishment.
And there is good news when it comes to interventions for youth. Because they have typically used e-cigarettes for less time than adults, they may be able to quit more easily with the right education and support.
“In that respect, teens have a much better prognosis to recover,” Detweiler said.
Contact Kimberly Marselas: [email protected]
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