Is My Child Vaping?: How to Spot the Signs and Identify Teen Vaping

Overview
Is My Child Vaping?
The number of youth engaging in vaping is rising at an alarming rate. Whether your child is at home or in school, it is important to be on the lookout for risky behavior.
 
So, how can you know if your child is vaping? Here are a few cues you can watch for that may indicate your child or students are vaping.
 

Frequent and Longer Bathroom Breaks

Taking frequent bathroom breaks Teenagers who vape may go to the bathroom more often because they can use this time to vape without being seen.
 
Many schools are actually dealing with this problem. Students vape in the restrooms because of the privacy it provides (such as in a stall), which allows them to smoke without getting busted by a teacher. Vape detectors help schools with this. They are connected to an app on principals’, teachers’, and counselors’ phones and tablets, allowing quick response.
 
Remember, if a teen regularly stays in the bathroom for a long time, it could mean that they are vaping while they are there without being caught.
 

Coughing (Vaper’s cough)

Vaping involves heating a bunch of chemicals until they turn into a vapor that you then inhale.
“Vaping is a delivery system similar to a nebulizer, which people with asthma or other lung conditions may be familiar with. A nebulizer turns liquid medicine into a mist that patients breathe in. It’s a highly effective way of delivering medicine to the lungs,” says Johns Hopkins lung cancer surgeon Stephen Broderick.
 
The difference between a nebulizer and vaping is that it coats lungs with potentially harmful chemicals instead of bathing lung tissues with a therapeutic mist.
 
Over time, that could lead to conditions like bronchiolitis obliterans (BO), a condition discovered initially by popcorn factory workers resulting from damage to the lungs’ small airways. There’s lipoid pneumonia, a condition that develops when fatty acids enter the lungs. Another condition would be what is commonly known as a collapsed lung or Primary Spontaneous Pneumothorax, which usually occurs when there’s a hole in the lung through which oxygen escapes a condition that is a result of when air blisters on the top of the lungs rupture and create tiny tears.
 

Irritability and Mood Swings

While it is a common misconception that smoking is a way to calm your nerves and deal with feelings of anxiety, the truth cannot be even further. Nicotine and mood are connected. Based on 2018 research by the National Library of Medicine, nicotine modulates the function of pathways that are involved in stress response, anxiety, and depression in the normal brain, which can result in alterations in anxiety level and mood.
Mood changes are usually temporary while their body adjusts to having nicotine. These effects are still significant to note, as they are usually.
 
Sleep deprivation caused by vaping can lead to irritability, mood swings, and emotional instability, affecting a teenager’s overall well-being and behavior.
 

Peer Pressure Dynamics

When teens see their peers engaging in vaping, it creates this sense of social proof that vaping is not only acceptable but is also a desirable behavior. This perception is usually reinforced by the desire to fit in and be accepted by one’s social group, the need to belong.
 
As a result, teens may feel pressure to participate, conform to social expectations, and maintain their social status. Thus, understanding the dynamics of peer influence is crucial.
 

Sudden changes in behavior

The human brain does not fully develop until the age of 25. This means using harmful substances like vaping at an early age can make children more sensitive to their adverse effects. Medical studies have shown that vaping nicotine substantially diminishes the prefrontal cortex, a part of the brain that mainly governs emotional control, decision-making, and impulse regulation. Now imagine that in a young child’s brain.
 

Drop in Academic Performance

Nicotine-induced changes in the brain are because exposure to it during critical developmental periods disrupts neural development and often has long-lasting effects. One common consequence of vaping is its detrimental effect on concentration and mental clarity, making it harder to focus and think clearly, which can lead to poorer performance in school.
 

Physical Symptoms

Keep an eye out for physical changes, such as losing weight and stained teeth and fingers. Research reveals that nicotine, one of the active ingredients in vapes, works as an appetite suppressant. How? Well, the nicotine receptor in the brain has 15 subunits that can combine in many ways for different receptors, such as one that is more associated with reward and behavior reinforcement.
 
Other symptoms to look out for include dehydration, dry skin, red or irritated eyes, and nose or mouth sores. According to Dr. Niti Gaur, MD, a board-certified dermatologist, “The inhalation of heated vapour can dehydrate the skin, leading to increased TransEpidermal Water Loss (TEWL). This can leave the skin feeling dry, tight, and flaky.”
 

Understand Why

The best approach is to have regular conversations with the students about the use of e-cigarettes and tobacco products in general, and we hope that this will have a positive impact on their habits. As a parent or teacher, you significantly influence the children’s actions. Just remember that before you start with this important conversation, make sure you talk to them about this calmly and reasonably. Be ready to listen rather than give a lecture. Focus on their health and safety rather than just giving them threats and punishments. Make sure to ask questions to get to understand why.
 
References:
  1. https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/wellness-and-prevention/what-does-vaping-do-to-your-lungs
  2. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5510594/
  3. https://www.businessinsider.com/vaping-brain-effects-juul-2018-4
  4. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC10392865/
  5. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6368221/