by Kelly Martinsen
Vape … the word is everywhere. In fact, it’s a noun and a verb. And if you are like me, a parent of teens, I imagine you are wondering what this thing—which smells like cotton candy and is inhaled through a fancy (often bedazzled) pen-like item—is all about and just how safe it is.
Vape pens, also known as electronic cigarettes or e-cigarettes, most often are battery powered and contain nicotine solutions that are heated to make a vapor (hence the terms vape and vaping). Adults often vape to curtail their existing cigarette habit; and I guess that seems to make some limited sense, as electronic cigarettes are, until further research proves otherwise, “safer” than regular cigarettes. I maintain, however, that we truly don’t know the long-term effects and how “safe” these devices actually are.
My oldest sister smoked cigarettes most of her life. She started in her teens and quit during pregnancy, only to resume the habit again after a particularly stressful office meeting (back then people smoked IN THE MEETING). Why did she smoke? She thought it looked cool. It was the late 1960s and the movie stars and rock stars were all smoking. Honestly, she kind of did look cool. She was gorgeous—long hair, bell-bottom jeans, beautiful smile and a cigarette dangling from her two cool fingers. Did I mention her smile? Yes, I did. Oh good, because her mouth, yup, that was where the doctors found the first lesion when she was just 45 years young—the first lesion that would ultimately kill her in a most horrific fashion a mere five years later.
Back to vape. Maybe it makes sense for an adult trying to kick a bad habit. Maybe. But what adult needs cotton candy and cherry flavors to give up smoking? And if they did, wouldn’t flavored gum suffice? Ah, the candy flavors—those are enticing to another group, aren’t they? Right now, the “pro-vape” peeps are probably saying, “Oh, my God, lighten up [not literally—you don’t even need to know how to strike a match to vape]; it’s no big deal, just some chemical flavoring, nicotine and water.”
I won’t lighten up. Vape is merely a training bra for future drug use. Yes, I said it. Vape is a training bra for drug use. I googled “purpose of a training bra” the other day and this is what I found: “A rite of passage to mark escape from childhood to adulthood—a starter—a first.” As such, yes, vape holds a similar purpose. It will be a first and is training your child and, worse, your child’s brain to begin to experiment with risky behaviors—behaviors they think are “adult like” or “rites of passage.”
When I first broached the topic of vaping with my kids, I asked them: “What’s the point? Do kids get a high off of the nicotine?” They said some vape devices don’t even contain any nicotine. So, I pressed for an answer as to why kids vape. The obvious answer I was looking for was “I guess to act cool.” If they said that, I could have a conversation on the unique distinction of “acting cool” verses actually “being cool.” The truth is I didn’t need their answer. Vaping, it’s the first “risky” choice. What’s next? What are they “training” for?
Wondering just how “dangerous” this chemical-inhaled water actually is as “a training bra” for early onset drug use? I would say pretty damn dangerous. That first naughty vape puff your child attempts in sixth, seventh or eighth grade (maybe even younger) that holds no immediate repercussion, well that’s just a license to try the next seemingly “cool” thing, and the next, until, ultimately, they are in a place where the “cool” thing they are trying next holds very dangerous consequences.
Not for everyone. No, some kid may hit off it two or three times and wizen up or say to himself, “If I need this to be cool, well, s***, then I am just not cool!” But for many, that first vape puff, usually streamed live on some social media channel, is a first step on a slippery path. Just because vape is sweet and easy to get, don’t be fooled by the cotton candy smell and taste. Vape is simply a stone on a path that kids are embarking on much earlier than before, and the path’s end holds dire consequences.
Kelly Martinsen is publisher of Natural Awakenings Long Island and author of A Year of Inspired Living, her first book, which will be available for preorder beginning in September. For more information, visit AYearOfInspiredLiving.com.