Last Thursday the Coalition for Placer Youth held a partnership meeting at the Rocklin Police Department where Jennifer Johnson, Public Health Assistant with the Centers for Disease Control, and Mike Romero, Client Services Program Supervisor, Placer County Public Health Department, made a presentation about how youth today are smoking tobacco and marijuana concentrates with parental permission by using e-cigarette technology.
“Electronic cigarettes are increasingly popular, easy to conceal, and are heavily marketed to youth with fruit and candy flavored juice [which contains the nicotine],” Johnson said. Electronic cigarettes are being marketed as “vape pens” – “vape” being short for vaporizer – which look like pens or markers. Other electronic smoking devices are fashioned to look like common products such as a tin of breath mints or a soda can.
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One of the most important public safety concerns is informing parents about this smoking technology trend that is amplified in the social media. “There is no odor,” Johnson said. “Many parents believe that it’s flavored water and so they are purchasing vape pens for their children believing it is harmless.” According to Johnson the vape pens are also being used to smoke concentrated forms of marijuana known as wax and honey oil. “Kids can smoke in the house and their parents would never know it,” she said.
The other major factor in this trend is accessibility as regulation has not caught up with the technology. “It is reasonably affordable,” she said, “Largely because it is not taxed like cigarettes and alcohol.” Johnson also explains that other retail display and advertising regulations are not yet in effect, hence there is aggressive marketing targeted at youth where they hang out on line. For example, she noted that in 2012 there were over 70,000 tweets about vaping and 90% of these tweets were commercials. “The problem with this media environment is that it makes smoking seem so normal,” she said showing YouTube videos of “vape meets” where young people (that appear to be in their late teens and early twenties) perform elaborate smoke blowing tricks. She pointed out that all of the social media platforms, Instagram, Vine, Pinterest, Tumblr as well as Twitter feature “vaping” as the cool way to be.
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Tips for parents
- Be clear that your expectation for your child is that they are making their own decisions to protect their good health. And more importantly, you have confidence in your child to do just that.
- Explain to your teens that vaping and electronic smoking are hazardous to your health – there are still carcinogens and other metal particles inhaled. Smoking vaporized substances is still smoking.
- Remind your child that nicotine is addictive and the e-cig juices contain nicotine – that’s why people have a very difficult time quitting and why lots of money is spent on advertising to young people.
- Sign up to receive monthly news alerts from the Coalition for Placer Youth about youth trends with drugs and alcohol which can help you initiate well-informed and open dialogue with your child about the things they are exposed to on and off line.
- Check out the CPY parent pledge.
To learn more about creating a family culture characterized by open communication and individual resilience, go to: Fresh Start.
(Disclosure: this examiner is a founding member of the Coalition for Placer Youth,)