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- Vaping-related illnesses are sweeping the nation, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention anticipates the total number of cases to increase “considerably” in the coming months.
- The majority of publicly known cases involve middle-aged people, high-schoolers, and college-aged students, but younger adolescents are also using vapes.
- Vaping nicotine could be especially harmful to tweens because the substance can stunt brain development and lead to hard-to-break drug addictions, a pediatrician told Insider.
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Vaping-related illnesses have been sweeping the nation, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention anticipates the total number of cases to increase “considerably” in the coming months.
“This is extremely complicated and difficult. It’s fatal or potentially fatal with half of the cases requiring intensive care,” CDC Principal Deputy Director Anne Schuchat told a House Appropriations subcommittee on Wednesday.
The majority of publicly known cases involve middle-aged people, high-schoolers, and college-aged students, but younger adolescents, like those in their middle school years, are also using vapes and potentially causing irreparable harm to their developing brains and bodies.
“I worry young children have addiction and potentially some neurodevelopmental consequences,” from vaping nicotine, Dr. Karen Wilson, chair of the American Academy of Pediatrics Tobacco Consortium, told Insider.
Middle schoolers are vaping nicotine
According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, 3.6% of 8th graders in the United States use e-cigarettes. In general, 13.2% of teens say their devices contain nicotine, a substance that could stunt brain development and lead to early addiction, compared to 66% who say their vapes have “just flavoring” with no drugs. Almost 6% say their vapes contain marijuana.
In a personal essay on CBC, a Canadian news outlet, one parent who goes by Cherry Sliz said she caught her 11-year-old son with a vape, which she later found he purchased himself through a clever loophole and was using regularly with his friends.
“I went back into his room, looked in his old backpack and found a stash of vape stuff: two vapes and two e-juice containers. When I showed them to him, the tears came on full force. His, not mine,” Sliz wrote.
She ended up having a conversation with her son about the dangers of using the device, confiscated his, and her son admitted he knew it was wrong to vape.
Sliz’s story illustrates what she calls the “wild west” of vaping, where even younger kids who can’t legally use the addictive products are able to get their hands on them and get addicted.
Vaping nicotine could stunt a young adolescent’s brain development
While most attention on vaping’s health risks has focused on the lungs, which can become filled with fluid from vaping aerosols and make breathing difficult or impossible, there are also brain-related concerns, especially for young brains.
According to the CDC, the human brain continues to develop up until a person turns 25, but if a young adult consumes nicotine regularly during this formative period, it can negatively impact the areas of the brain that control attention, learning, mood, and impulse control.
That’s because the young teen brain is always developing synapses, or links between brain cells, as a kid or teen learns new skills. These synapses grow far more quickly in teenage brains than adult ones, but if a teen consumes nicotine like through a vape, it messes with how those synapses form.
Additionally, using addictive substances at a young age can make it easier to become addicted to that substance and others later on, according to Wilson.
Parents should talk to their kids about vaping health concerns before it’s too late
Wilson said parents should explain these devices’ dangers early on since kids are picking up vaping at alarmingly young ages.
“Parents need to be aware young adolescents are trying these, especially if they have older friends or siblings,” Wilson said. “It’s never too soon to talk about dangers because 14 or 15 years old is probably too late,” and they may have already developed a vaping habit by that age.
If you know your child is vaping, you can help them quit by educating them about the health risks of vaping, picking a start date to quit, and getting rid of their vaping devices together, according to Kids Health.
- Read more:
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- Deadly vaping lung illnesses are cropping up across the US, and experts blame everything from vegetable oil to ‘Dank Vapes’
- Mysterious vaping illnesses are causing life-threatening lung injuries and death. Here’s what we know about the people who have been affected so far.