Vaping and tobacco use in Colorado among our youth is becoming a huge epidemic in schools and out. Learn more about the facts and how you can talk to your children about the effects of tobacco use and vaping.
Disclosure: This post is in partnership with Colorado Department of Health and Environment, but opinions are mine.
My Experience with Vaping
I walked into my very own classroom 10 years ago, fully expecting kids to make mistakes and using my role to mentor them through those while trying to teach some science content. My philosophy has really been that I teach life with a bit of science mixed in. I love my students, I love my job and I have always felt that my place is in the classroom and that my real job is to help raise good humans. I knew kids would test boundaries, and try things in my classroom when I wasn’t looking, so I knew that I needed to work on being vigilant.
Last year, vaping in our high school building became a forefront issue. I remember sitting in a staff meeting with our deans and them talking about a survey that teachers had taken and the number one issue we were concerned about (aside from cell phones) was vaping in the building. Not even a week later, I was conducting a lab in my classroom and I turn my back to a particular group of students to work with another group and when I turned back around, I see a puff of smoke coming from the center of their group. Yup, it happened…in my classroom.
I knew it was something that students were into, but it is becoming a big issue in schools and one that teachers are having a hard time combating. The experiences and issue in our building are NOT unique.In fact, every high school teacher I have talked to in Colorado at different schools will tell you a similar story to mine. Vaping is an issue for our youth and we need to educate both parents and kids.
Facts About Vaping
In 2017, the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment put out the Healthy Kids Colorado Survey to kids in Colorado. The statistics were not shocking to me, but I think to many parents they will definitely spark some shock. You can find a great infographic on Colorado Youth tobacco use here, but a synopsis of the information is below.
- About half of Colorado high school students have tried vaping nicotine. In fact, Colorado youth are vaping nicotine at TWICE the national average.
- Only 7 percent of high school students currently smoke cigarettes, yet 27 percent said they vape nicotine.
- The statewide school survey shows 87 percent of Colorado high school students think cigarette smoking is risky, but only 50 percent think those risks apply to vaping nicotine.
One of the first things that we as parents and teachers can do is to educate ourselves on vaping. The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment has created a suite of materials to help parents and askable adults understand the risks of vaping, and prepare them to have informed conversations with teens about it. Check out the materials below.
- “What do I do if I find out my child is vaping?”
- Frequently Asked Questions for Parents and Adults Who Work with Youth
- Tip Sheet: Talking to Youth
- Fact Sheet: Myths vs. Facts
- Fact Sheet: Vaping 101
One of the most profound things to note is that Nicotine has a negative effect on adolescent brain development, causing lasting cognitive and behavioral impairments, including effects on working memory and attention. This is why it is important to be educated and to talk with your children.
How to Talk to your Children About Vaping
As a teacher, the one thing that I make sure I do is build relationships.Then, when my students make mistakes, I address them in a personal way. I remind them that we are all human, we all make mistakes and the real challenge comes from learning from those mistakes. I tell them that I am there to talk, to support and to help them as they face those challenges without judgement. Talking to kids is easy for me, but for many parents, they may not know where to start. Here is a short list of ways you can talk to your children about vaping.
- Begin By Listening: Make them feel heard. The most important thing is that your child feels safe talking openly. Consider their opinions and keep the conversation going. Even if you’ve talked about this topic before, their thoughts can change. Plus, as youth get older, they can feel more pressure from friends and classmates.
- Use Teachable Moments: When you see someone vaping on tv, or if it comes up in conversation, or even if a friend or family member vapes, it can make starting the conversation easier. Ask them how they feel about it and let them guide your discussion.
- Set Clear Rules: Make family, school and sports team rules clear and stick to them. Let them know what will happen if they don’t follow them.
- Focus on Positive Messages: Encourage them to make choices that help them achieve their goals.
- Help them Understand the Facts: Most vapes contain nicotine, even many that say “nicotine free” on the label. Most teens start out thinking they can stop whenever they want and won’t ever become addicted. And lots more start smoking cigarettes, a product that kills half its users. In fact, a teen who vapes is four times more likely to start smoking.