Healthier Together: Teens and vaping

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Vaping was originally introduced and marketed to help people stop smoking but today many experts see vaping as a gateway to nicotine dependence in children.

We're taking a closer look and breaking down the health risks and how you can best prepare your kids for peer pressure.

"Vaping is one of those things that’s been changing over the last couple of years mainly because it’s been getting a lot of attention," said Regence BlueShield Executive Medical Director Dr. James Polo. "Vaping was initially developed and marketed to help people quit smoking cigarettes and unfortunately it has kind of taken on a life of its own."

Dr. Polo says vaping is still an alarmingly popular and troublesome trend.

"Vaping is basically is the inhalation of an artificial smoke that replicates what it would be like to smoke cigarettes, but what’s most significant is vaping products contain nicotine, and it’s the same nicotine that you get in cigarettes," he said. "And some cases it’s a higher concentration than what you would get out of cigarettes, and so vaping all by itself can create a danger because of the nicotine addiction."

While the long-term health risks are still unknown, negative impacts from nicotine can include a short-term rise in blood pressure, the inability to focus, permanently reduced impulse control, anxiety, depression, and other mood disorders. And adolescents are more vulnerable to addiction than adults.

"Over the past couple of years the incidence and prevalence of vaping has gone up significantly," said Dr. Polo. "Now it just so happens in this last year it actually went down in adolescence, but roughly about 11 or 12% of all high schoolers currently vape. Now that percentage is higher in adults, but a few years ago it was 20% of all high schoolers, so it is getting better partly because of legislation, and I suspect also because kids have been out of school for a while so less peer pressure."

Healthier Together: How to get kids to eat healthy meals

As our kids head back to school, some planning and creativity will go a long way in establishing healthy eating habits.

Dr. Polo says it is important for parents to educate themselves and share accurate information with teens and young adults in your family. Also, be a great role model. That means quitting, if you smoke or vape and make your home and car are smoke-free. Also, educate your kids about the risks of second-hand smoke.

"I would recommend all parents to start those conversations young encouraging them to understand facts around smoking and vaping and encouraging them not to engage," said Dr. Polo. "For young kids even perhaps helping practice how they might respond to a friend if they are asked at school or on the playground or wherever they hang out with other kids - how to respond so they can essentially not engage."

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