Vaping and Youth in Florida, My Latest Parental Nightmare

Do you recall taking D.A.R.E. classes when you were a kid? I remember them well and thinking to myself: “I’ll never have any trouble just saying NO.”

And then here comes vaping and e-cigarettes, something that didn’t exist when I was a child. We had plain ol’ tobacco-filled cigarettes. And while not considered a hard drug, I remember smoking in general being a huge no-no during those D.A.R.E. classes.

Now, as the Boca mom of a first grader, I haven’t had to deal with the topic of vaping, regular or e-cigarettes, firsthand…yet. But this has slowly turned into an epidemic with our high school youth here in Florida and around the nation.

Since I’m still in the elementary school phase of life, I had to do a fair amount of research on the topic through the Bureau of Tobacco Free Florida. The most popular e-cigarette brand is JUUL, a device shaped like a USB drive that is available in a variety of flavors and easy to conceal. In fact, young people are using JUUL devices inside school bathrooms and classrooms. E-cigarettes use an aerosol delivery system—aka “vapor”—and it is NOT harmless “water vapor,” as many young people mistakenly believe.

Also, most e-cigarettes contain nicotine, which is highly addictive. According to the manufacturer, a single JUUL pod (the “liquid” refill) contains as much nicotine as a pack of 20 regular cigarettes. And since the brain continues to develop until the early to mid-20s and a developing brain is more vulnerable to the negative effects of nicotine, the results can be awful. We’re talking reduced impulse control, deficits in attention and cognition, and mood disorders. It may also increase the risk for future addiction to other drugs.

My column or website is rarely preachy, but I see this as a BIG problem. The long-term health effects of vaping are still not known, so if you’re the type of parent who freaks out if your kid eats something that’s not organic, then get ready.

Youth vaping has increased dramatically across the country and in Florida. In 2018, about 25 percent of Florida high school students reported current use of electronic vaping—a 58 percent increase compared to 2017. I’m so glad that this has now been added to my book of parental nightmares.

So what can we do as parents? We have to talk to our kids. Parents and educators alike should consistently advise their children and students on the dangers of nicotine. As a mom, I personally stand against youth tobacco use in any form, including e-cigarettes. My daughter will be grounded until graduation if I ever catch her smoking.

And of course, just say no yourself. Set a positive example for your kids by being tobacco free. To learn more about Tobacco Free Florida’s Quit Your Way services, visit tobaccofreeflorida.com.