To Vape or Not to Vape? Social Prerogatives to Help Vulnerable Teens Make Smart Choices
Someone needs to make this statement, so I will as a devil’s advocate. What if, it's not just about lack of state funding for healthy teens, but more about protecting the big money interests? Who cares if social media turns teenagers into early consumers with premature sexual roles, if drugs and mental depression continue to be problems? Who will advocate to protect their normal social rites of passage minus adult hype? Annemarie Berukoff
What do you think is causing this teen age vaping epidemic? There are more and more stories about severe reactions to vapor products requiring medical attention by teenagers. It portends a long-term new generation of youth addicted to nicotine
Vaping is the act of inhaling and exhaling an aerosol or vapor produced by heating a liquid with a battery powered device known as a vape or e-cigarette.
As a parent, would you want your teenager to hook into an advertisement like this if truth were told:
- Try our newest vaping pens with a variety of fruit and candy flavorful e-juices.
- Choose with or without nicotine or cannabis, THC and hemp oil
- Designed better to look like USB memory sticks, lipstick tubes or ball point pens.
- Carry easily in the palm of your hand. Don’t worry that just one “pod” device can contain as much nicotine as a pack of cigarettes.
- Note: Small amount of e-juice can be poisonous to a young child if ingested and toxic if spilled on the skins. Keep away from children and pets.
- Be careful: Vapor devices contain a heat source which can malfunction and cause a mini explosion or start a fire in a purse or backpack.
- Don’t worry: Sales to minors (under 19) is illegal in Canada. Vaping is banned on school grounds. But it's your choice, right!
But how can you stop them from checking out some social media influencers who look bright, beautiful and excited to use the latest vape pen, stick or pod. Join the herd, appeal to cool crowds, bump up your buddy, irresistible consistency…everybody likes it, be a little secretive growing up.
In fact, one of the vape manufacturers, JUUL, has recently been investigated by the FTC for deliberate advertising that targets teens as is obvious by their online ads.
There is no disagreement that smoking cigarettes or e-cigarettes with nicotine is hazardous to your health. There are several reports of young students hospitalized for weeks with one or two collapsed lungs which are hard to re-inflate, thereby causing long term health problems. So why do it if you know the facts?
The Council of Chief Medical Officers of Health in Canada has made this statement:
Nicotine is highly addictive and can have harmful impacts on the brain, affecting memory and concentration in everyone and brain development in youth and young adults. It alters part of the brain that controls attention, learning, mood, and impulse control. Early exposure to nicotine in adolescence may increase the severity of future dependence on tobacco.
However, I have 3 questions that bother me greatly. If adults want to vape...let them be masters of their fate, but leave teenagers alone.
ONE: Why are young teenagers so vulnerable to social media influencers or any other deliberate advertisers with hot button selling techniques that appeal to peer pressure and ego?
I believe part of the answer is how some social echelons think they can take advantage of a developing adolescent brain that lacks prefrontal, deductive judgement skills until maturation in mid-twenties.
An adolescent brain passes signals through a central relay station called the amygdala which processes emotional feelings. Psychologists call these amygdala reactions as seen in typical behavior; impulsive, irrational, high tolerance to risks and conforming to peer pressure or risk bullying or ostracism.
It is with the same adolescent brain that a young teen girl faces on social media to meet certain objective idealized standards to be liked and rewarded, and not to be excluded. Too many times this means adapting to an adult lifestyle, fashion, entertainment and expectations.
Curious how public reaction to vaping has become importantly mainstream because the negative results are physically observable … collapsed and contaminated lungs possibly for life based on a vulnerable young brain taking a risk.
TWO: Why there is lack of public attention to social media struggles and regrets for teen girls who may face long term mental health issues like low self-esteem and enhanced depression over time?
In fact, recent research is now using MRI technology to show the reactions and effects of social media immersion like social withdrawal, anxiety, aggressive acting out and disobedience. In fact, more associations over time are being studied for long term effects.
We have a social prerogative not to assume idly that teen girls’ mental well-beings will just get over it ... adolescent trials will just metamorphose into happy, self- respecting, masterful productive citizens. What if early experiences, regrets and mistakes on social media never go away? Research simply doesn’t support this.
Note the 6 key findings by the World HealthOrganization and weep
THREE: How can teenagers make smarter choices for themselves ... to vape or not to vape?
Of course, parents cannot be helicopters all the time, and there needs to be trust that their children's growing independence means making good choices and decisions on their own.
What if, teens can learn to respect their timelines as more important than social media, or following the Pied Piper of advertising or peer pressure?
What if they can connect the past, present and future and see how the power of making a smart choice is the starting point to making smart decisions?
What if a simple script, a superpower tool, can ask important questions to vape or not to vape?
Imagine this scenario … a 14-year girl or boy is invited to try a vape pen by a friend at a gathering. YES or NO? Before a choice is made, a short script flashes in their mind:
1. THE PAST: What you remember … success … failure … repeat … never again
2. THE FUTURE: Where do you want to be … avoid pain + loss … attract hopes + dreams
3. TODAY: Who you are … best fit between your past and future
NOW MAKE A SMART CHOICE
This mental check may only take a minute or two. Stop and think ... what do I know about past behaviors with vaping? Do I really want to face possible addiction or disease to be popular? I don’t need stimulants to be self-centered, my future is too important.
What if, respecting my timeline may be the only stimulus I need to say NO!
I believe we have a social prerogative to do better for our teenage sons and daughters on their journey to adulthood. Of course, any kind of education will be helpful to know the facts.
Also, importantly, in a time-ravaged society they need to know the precious value of their time and how to spend it wisely. They need to discuss the progression of time in elements they can understand. In this information overflow we need to help them make smart choices to avoid making mistakes that can derail a lifetime of possibilities. All teen boys and girls need to stand tall, strong and proud of who they are, more aligned with the universe than social media or a cloud of vaping smoke.
What kinds of questions bother you about teenagers, social media, our culture, and how we can help our teenagers realize their responsibilities and dreams?
Questions and comments are always appreciated as the best way to address some of these concerns from your experiences.
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Excerpt: Teen Girl Faces Time in the Sand
There is power in the internet. In fact, it has solidly bonded with our society. The choice is to stay connected or disconnected, to be more informed or less informed, have more confidence or have more fear, keep your mind open or keep it closed.
It doesn't have to be a monster devouring its Selfie offspring tethered on Celties. But I get the difference now that I have a superpower, too, unto myself to make to respect my shorelines. It is a wide-open world of choice. Make it a world of smart, well informed choices.
We can use internet power to connect and care, to show honest effort and consideration of others and to give thanks for efforts and kindness.