How to have the new ‘talk’ with your teen - Cape Cod Healthcare

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Published on November 12, 2018

How to have the new ‘talk’ with your teenHow to have the new ‘talk’ with your teen

Talking with your kids about sex is easy compared to the talk you need to have with them about vaping.


Yes, vaping or Juuling may be difficult to discuss because it’s a subject not many parents know about. And what you and your kids don’t know can hurt.

“I believe we have to make parents aware so they can have one-on-one conversations with their kids,” said Jeffrey Spillane, MD FACS, a thoracic surgeon with Cape Cod Healthcare at Southeastern Surgical Associates in Hyannis. “The FDA has declared vaping an epidemic, yet a lot of parents have little idea what it is. In Massachusetts, 25 percent of high school students were vaping in 2015, but that’s up to about 50 percent this year.”

The father of three teenagers, Dr. Spillane is passionate about helping parents understand vaping so they can talk with and counsel their kids about this fast-growing, unhealthy trend.

“I was talking with my 13-year-old son, his friend and his friend’s father. That’s when I realized that vaping is a big awareness problem for parents. The dad didn’t know anything about it. He had never heard about pods, but the kids knew where to buy them! I think vaping is a grave situation that can affect the health of a new generation of smokers.”

As a Cape Cod Hospital surgeon, Dr. Spillane has long seen the damaging effects of smoking cigarettes.

“I care for patients with lung cancer all day. It kills more people than any other type of cancer, yet you can prevent most lung cancer. Just don’t smoke! I think most people who vape believe they are not at risk just because they aren’t smoking cigarettes, and that is not true,” he said.

Teen Vaping Skyrocketing

E-cigarettes come in cherry, lemon or just about any flavor, and come in brightly colored pens, USB flash drives and other funky and feminine containers. They’re called e-cigs, e-hookahs, vapes, vape pens, tank systems and mods.

Because they don’t look or smell like cigarettes, e-cigarettes are catching on fast among America’s youth. Sales of Juul, an e-cigarette shaped like a USB flash drive, grew more than seven-fold from 2016 to 2017, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and reported in the October 2018 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA).

“Use of Juul by youth in schools, including in classrooms and bathrooms, has been widely reported. Most e-cigarettes contain nicotine, and JUUL contains among the highest nicotine content of any e-cigarette on the U.S. market. Nicotine is highly addictive and can harm a child’s brain development, which continues into the mid-20s,” JAMA reported.

“The popularity of JUUL among kids threatens our progress in reducing youth e-cigarette use,” said Robert Redfield, M.D., director of the CDC, in a press release. “We are alarmed that these new high nicotine content e-cigarettes, marketed and sold in kid-friendly flavors, are so appealing to our nation’s young people.”

Young people need to hear the facts about e-cigarettes so they can make informed decisions, said Dr. Spillane.

Here’s what he tells his children:

  • Cigarette smoking is the number one cause of preventable death in the U.S. Most people know it causes lung cancer, but cigarette smoking also causes heart and vascular disease and cancers elsewhere in the body.
  • One e-cigarette pod has the nicotine equivalent of a pack of cigarettes, and nicotine is highly addictive.
  • Quitting smoking at any age can help reduce the risk of getting cancer.
  • E-cigarettes were supposed to help adults stop smoking by providing a small dose of nicotine through super-heated vapors. Instead, a lot of young people think Juuls are cool, so they’re getting hooked on vaping.
  • You are a teenager right now, so you’re probably not going to get sick right away. But vaping is very bad for your health, and vaping will probably make you very sick later.
  • In 2015, e-cigarette use among high school students increased by 900 percent, and 40 percent of young e-cigarette users had never smoked regular tobacco, according to the U.S. Surgeon General.
  • Juul Labs is a $15 billion San Francisco-based company that has attained two-thirds of the e-cigarette market since 2015. They’re so big that the company name has become a verb (Juuling) for smoking e-cigarettes. In October 2018, the company was raided by the Food and Drug Administration, who were cracking down on marketing practices that are enticing youth to vape.
  • E-cigarettes can lead to smoking cannabis and other dangerous drugs. Kids are opening the pods and inserting other drugs.
  • I get it that Juuling or vaping is an instant fix. Right now it seems exciting and you want to ride the edge. It’s new, electronic, easy to conceal, has minimal odor, and you think it’s better than smoking. Juuling may be more socially acceptable than smoking cigarettes, but I believe it is just as addictive and just as bad for your health.

Another aspect of vaping also concerns Dr. Spillane. “I also have a chemistry degree, and I think we have to make everyone aware that anytime you heat an additive like the polyproylene glycol in e-cigarettes to such a high temperature it becomes a gas, and you’re looking at trouble,” he said.