The Best Treatment for Teens Addicted to Vaping? No One Knows
by The Associated Press - January 16, 2019
The nation's top health authorities agree: Teen vaping is an epidemic that now affects some 3.6 million underage users of Juul and other e-cigarettes. But no one seems to know the best way to help teenagers who may be addicted to nicotine.
E-cigarettes are now the top high-risk substance used by teenagers, according to the latest U.S. figures, which show that Juul and similar products have quickly outpaced cigarettes, alcohol, marijuana and other substances that have been tracked over more than four decades.
The handheld devices heat a liquid solution that usually contains nicotine into an inhalable vapor. Federal law prohibits sales to those under 18, though many high schoolers report getting them from older students or online.
In recent months, government officials have rolled out a series of proposals aimed at keeping the products away from youngsters, including tightening sales in convenience stores and online. In November, vaping giant Juul voluntarily shut down its Facebook and Instagram accounts and pulled several flavors out of retail stores.
But there's been little discussion of how to treat nicotine addiction in children as young as 11 years old. While some adolescents should be able to quit unaided, experts say many will be hampered by withdrawal symptoms, including anxiety, irritability, difficulty concentrating and loss of appetite.
Physicians who treat young people now face a series of dilemmas: The anti-smoking therapies on the market—such as nicotine patches and gum—are not approved for children, due to lack of testing or ineffective results. And young people view the habit as far less risky, which poses another hurdle to quitting.
The harshness of cigarette smoke often limits how much teenagers inhale, sometimes discouraging them from picking up the habit altogether. That deterrent doesn't exist with e-cigarette vapor, which is typically much easier to inhale, according to experts. <
Vaping boom: Twice the amount of teens vaping than last year, survey finds
Twice as many high school students used nicotine-based electronic cigarettes in 2018 compared with last year, according to a new survey exploring teen smoking, drinking and drug use.
In the survey’s 44-year history, this was the largest single-year increase, surpassing even the surge in marijuana smoking during the mid-1970s, according to the Associated Press.
The federally funded survey, conducted earlier this year by researchers at the University of Michigan, has prompted regulators to press for measures making it harder for kids to purchase the vaping devices.
Experts credit the increase to modern versions of the e-cigarettes, like the Juul, which looks like a USB thumb drive and can be easily disguised.
"They can put it in their sleeve or their pocket. They can do it wherever, whenever. They can do it in class if they're sneaky about it," Trina Hale, a junior at South Charleston High School in West Virginia said of the increased popularity of vaping.
Of the 45,000 students in grades 8, 10 and 12 who were surveyed across the country, one in five reported having vaped in the previous month.
Behind vaping and alcohol, teens also use marijuana, with one in 17 high schoolers smoking it every day. While marijuana smoking, in general, is about the same level as previous years, vaping marijuana did increase. <
District says vaping now an 'epidemic' in Brevard schools
Cpl. Kirk Geweniger leads a rambunctious yellow Labrador retriever through the lunchroom at Astronaut High School.
"Find it," he commands, and Sonic, the 3-year-old Lab, gets to work inspecting each student, under the guise of a playful pup looking for some attention. As students buy lunch and chat with their friends, the dog sniffs their pants pockets, purses, backpacks and gym bags.
What Sonic is looking for are vape pens and Juuls, the most popular contraband in high schools around the country these days.
As Sonic noses his way around the cafeteria, Geweniger watches the kids. Most fawn over the dog, asking permission to pet him. Others keep their eyes locked on Sonic. A few mutter expletives under their breath and make a hasty retreat from the cafeteria.
Geweniger says those are the kids he suspects. And with good reason.
A device meant to help adults quit smoking cigarettes has exploded into a teenage social phenomenon, with 3.05 million high school students in the United States vaping, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. That translates to 1 in 5 students nationwide.
Last month, U.S. Surgeon General Jerome Adams issued an advisory about the dangers of electronic cigarette use among teenagers.
"I am officially declaring e-cigarette use among youth an epidemic in the United States," he told a news conference. "Now is the time to take action. We need to protect our young people from all tobacco products, including e-cigarettes."
Even before the warning, school systems in Florida were struggling to cope with a problem that this time last year wasn't even on their radar.
Through sniffer dogs like Sonic, anonymous tip lines and educating teachers on what to look out for, the Brevard County school district has caught hundreds of students this school year with vape pens, racking up suspensions and placing some kids in alternative learning centers.
A vape pen with nicotine buys a day of out-of-school suspension.
A vape pen with cannabis oil or THC oil — the ingredient in cannabis that gets you high — is a felony and earns a transfer to an alternative learning center, a facility usually reserved for students with serious disciplinary problems.
"It's an epidemic," assistant superintendent Stephanie Soliven told the school board. "It exploded, literally since the end of last year to the fall of this year."
Discipline on the rise
The number of referrals given this year for tobacco possession at Brevard schools is five times that of last year, from 43 to 224. Suspensions are up from 40 to 206, according to data from the district.
Referrals for drug possession, including electronic cigarettes with cannabis oil, are up from 33 to 66, and suspensions from 33 to 68. Sixty students were expelled and transferred to alternative learning centers, joining students who brought weapons to school, called in bomb threats or assaulted other kids.
Those numbers include regular cigarettes, joints and other drugs, but district officials say vaping is largely responsible for the spike. Regardless of a student's age, tobacco is not allowed on school campuses.
"It’s a huge issue," said school board chair Tina Descovich. "Your everyday, normal, average kids are sticking THC oil in [the vape pens] and bringing them to school and getting expelled."
To help combat the problem, the school district partnered with local police agencies and the Brevard Tobacco Initiative, ramping up discipline and handing out citations to students caught with vape pens. Possessing a vape device, even an empty one, is grounds for a citation. If a student gets one, they have to take a Saturday class, pay $55 and could lose their driver's license.
The citations are sometimes given in lieu of harsher punishment. Schools have issued hundreds so far this year, Geweniger said. <read more>
Palm Beach County using new tactic to raise awareness of e-cigarette dangers
PALM BEACH COUNTY, Fla. — The Palm Beach County School District says it has seized hundreds of e-cigarettes since the beginning of the school year, but kids are finding new ways to hide them.
Now, the Substance Awareness Coalition is using a new tactic by having teens teach their peers and parents about the dangers.
“I see it in my school and I know a lot of people see it in their schools,” said Liam Kennison, a junior at Suncoast Community High School. “There’s a running joke in my school that there’s a petition that says let’s remove toilets from the Juul rooms.”
Kennison is part of the Palm Beach County Substance Awareness Coalition’s teen leadership program that helps raise awareness about the dangers of e-cigarettes among teens, which started at the beginning of the school year.
“We train the teens to go out into the community and into the schools and they offer round table discussions and they are doing community presentations,” said Alexa Lee, Director of Programming for the coalition.
According to new numbers provided by the Florida Youth Substance Abuse Survey, e-cigarette use by teens in Palm Beach County has jumped up more than four percent in the last two years. The survey also says in the past 30 days, 15.3 percent of teens used an e-cigarette, which is more than the state percentage at 13.7 percent.
“We had a report of a fifth grader using an e-cigarette, and it was reported to us that he wasn’t able to stop,” Lee said.
The coalition says the best advice is to talk to your child, but Any Lab Test Now in Palm Springs says it’s seeing its own increase of parents testing teens for nicotine.
“We have parents bringing children that test them even multiple times a month,” said Alex Kasparek, owner of Any Lab Test Now. “Nicotine is a drug and obviously it’s going to effect your child’s brain development.”
Any Lab Test Now offers tests on blood, urine, and hair tested. It’s a deterrent for your child, but the coalition stresses education and awareness.
“If you’re a parent talk to your child, know what they’re doing. Try to understand how they’re feeling because they may be doing this and you don’t know,” said Kennison, who recently gave a presentation at Royal Palm Beach High School.
The coalition believes having students hear the information from their peers is working, but is reminding parents to be on guard because teens who use e-cigarettes are more likely to smoke cigarettes as adults.