Cigarette smoking among our youth is at an all time low and we should be celebrating these numbers. But as cigarette use declines, the numbers for e-cigarette and vaping use are skyrocketing. News articles report on this epidemic and how to stop kids from getting their hands on the products, but no one seems to know how to help those already addicted to the nicotine.
The government is working to stem the tide of vaping devices getting into the hands of youth. But the bigger problem looming on the horizon is what can we do to help the millions of youngsters already addicted to these products? It is a topic that is not discussed much because we do not have the answers. Nicotine replacement therapies are not approved for youth and when we looked up studies on this subject the most recent ones are at least a decade old, before e-cigarettes made it to the marketplace and became a problem.
Since most teens have not been vaping for years, their level of addiction may not be as heavy as an adult with years of smoking history and ingrained habits, therefore they should be able to quit without aid. Withdrawal symptoms will make the quit uncomfortable, but should not last long. But the studies say nicotine addiction is different in teen users because their brain development has not reached maturity. The hand-to-mouth fixation, the buzz they get from a hit, the candy and fruit flavors, and the fact they are surrounded by friends still using the device are all obstacles that may make quitting more difficult. Then there is the fact that most teens do not see much risk in vaping which also works against them and quitting.
Learning a new behavior, such as quitting your addiction, requires “discipline, patience and a willingness to follow a treatment plan,” something an immature teen brain may not be able to handle well. According to one tobacco prevention expert, “teenagers have their own ideas of what might work for them, and they’re going to do what they do.”
Counseling is one option that could help. Colorado has one of the highest youth vaping rate in the U.S., and recently lowered the minimum age requirement for the quit-smoking hotline from 15 to 12. The free over-the-phone counseling and online programs can help users create a quit plan, but are limited in helping the teen population because discipline is necessary for success. According to addiction specialists, group sessions may be the most promising, but it is still difficult to get across to teens that they are inhaling a highly addictive substance when “about two-thirds of U.S. teenagers do not realize that Juul contains nicotine.”
The old saying “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure,” is never more true than discussing tobacco and vaping prevention among youth. The Florida Tobacco Prevention Training for Educators online course provides an opportunity for administrators, educators and school counselors to receive 30- or 60-credits towards renewal of their Florida Department of Education license at no cost to them or their district. At the end of the course, participants teach six (6) tobacco prevention lessons to their students. Lesson plans are provided for K-12 grades and FLDOE certificate holders in public, private and charter schools are allowed to take one of our courses. This year we added a 20-CEU course for Florida School Nurses (no teaching required) and 10-point ENDS course for Palm Beach educators.
Educating our Florida youth about tobacco and vaping will help protect them from a lifelong nicotine addiction and improve the health of our state in the long run.
Several articles were reviewed for this blog. Click HERE, HERE, and HERE for the links.
Click HERE for more information on the Florida Tobacco Prevention Training for Educators online course, and HERE to register for it.