On the Journey 

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Vaping and e-cigarettes: what parents need to know
Posted 11/12/2018 03:02PM


At Aspen Country Day School, we seek to foster the health and well-being of all students. As part of the Middle School health curriculum in Advisory, students will be learning about the hazards of vaping. Also, parents will be invited to a presentation and Q&A on campus. Watch for date and time coming soon. Middle School Head Brenda Stockdale also offers the following resource from a recent webinar: https://med.stanford.edu/tobaccopreventiontoolkit.html

We also aim to share information that will be useful to parents, and offer the article below by Craig Knippenberg, LCSW, M.Div., a mental health consultant at St. Anne's Episcopal School in Denver. Like ACDS, St. Anne's is a member of the Association of Colorado Independent Schools (ACIS), which has made his article available to member schools to share with families.

The Dangers of E-Cigarettes

For the past 15 years, thanks to public awareness campaigns, traditional cigarette smoking has been on the decline. Recently, however, the mass production and marketing of e-cigarettes (or vaporizers) has led to a nationwide increase in teen nicotine consumption. In 2015, 16% of high school students and 5.3% of middle school students had used one of the devices in the past 30 days (Surgeon General's Report). More recently, the 2017 Healthy Kids Colorado Survey found that half of Colorado high school students have tried vaping nicotine.

Fueling this increase among younger teens has been the Juul vaporizer and other knock offs, which are small in size (easily hidden and used in the palm of the hand) and offer nicotine pods in a variety of sweet flavors. Federal law prohibits anyone under age 18 from buying these products, but they are readily available and simple to use.

A rechargeable battery (USB) activates a heating element when someone inhales on the end. That element heats the pod's liquid mixture into a vapor. The white-colored vapor is then exhaled in a small stream about the width of a pencil. Due to the small size, slight odor, and short-lived color of the vapor, the activity can be difficult to detect. If you search online, you can find sites dedicated to "stealth vaping" with vaping camel backs/hoodies and talking points on how to convince parents that these are safe products.

Also fueling the increased usage is its cost. A starter set runs about $60 and includes 4 pods. Each pod is the equivalent of 2 packs of cigarettes in puffs and nicotine dosage. Additional 4 packs of pods range from $16-20. The equivalent cost of cigarettes would be double. While students know that cigarettes have dangerous health consequences, they tend to view these products as harmless as they are easy and fun to use.

Chronic smokers are using vapes as an alternative to smoking and a way to decrease dependence on nicotine. For young users, vaping can become a gateway to nicotine addiction. Poor regulation of the industry also means wide variability in possible toxins and cancer-causing compounds in the liquid pods. Given the rapid growth of the teen brain, nicotine exposure has a major impact on the development of the frontal lobe and can lead to life-long impulse control and mood stability issues.


  • Stay informed. Visit a vape store and see what products are on the market. Research online to see what sites your adolescent might find. Stay current with any research on the topic.
  • Study and support product safety regulations. The FDA recently ruled that Philip Morris couldn't advertise that their new e-cigarette reduces the risks of tobacco-related disease.
  • Talk to your adolescent about the dangers of addiction and toxin exposure. Brainstorm how to respond if a peer exposes them to a vape pen. Validate that nicotine can be relaxing in the short term, but use over the long term creates the need for a higher dose and possible lifelong dependency.
  • Help your adolescent be media savvy. Advertising for vape products is always going to make it look safe and fun. It's what advertisers don't tell you that counts most.
  • Discuss consequences. The Aspen Country Day School handbook (page 43) lists possession or use of tobacco as a major infraction which can lead to suspension or dismissal.

Craig Knippenberg, LCSW, M.Div.
Mental Health Consultant, St. Anne's Episcopal School
From: Trending with Teens series for St. Anne's middle school parents (Winter, 2018)

For an archive of last year's 
On the Journey, click here;
For the year before, 
click here.

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