Originally published as a column on CFJC Today Kamloops and Armchair Mayor News on Monday, September 2, 2019.

It is an interesting case of ‘better than smoking’ that has been adopted by many. Vaping, they said, does not present the same risks as cigarettes do. That many e-cigarette brands are developed, and owned, by tobacco giants…well, that’s a tell-tale like no other.

Never put the fox in charge of the hen house, as they say. But let’s not jump to any damning conclusions yet. If we are to believe the words of the Juul CEO, their devices are meant for smokers to help them quit smoking and if you had no pre-existent relationship with nicotine, you should not use them. Easier said than done when vaping adds to the coolness factor among teenagers.

New studies emerged and they are not bringing any pro arguments. On the contrary. Vaping is now being linked to heart and lung disease (flavours such as menthol and cinnamon damage blood vessel cells, according to a study published in May 2019), and second-hand vaping aerosol inhalation increases the risk of asthma in teenagers. Several large studies presented evidence that people who smoked had an increased risk of stroke (by 70 percent!) and heart attack (60 percent.) These are considerable risks, and they were assessed in adults.

Now let’s switch to teens and teenagers. Developing bodies are more vulnerable to any environmental toxins, be it industrial production or otherwise. In Canada, the number of teenagers (16 to 19 years old) who vape doubled between 2017 and 2018. Some are convinced that if the nicotine levels are low or inexistent (very few!), is just plain fun using a harmless device that allows them to blow out some cool vapour.

While nicotine is addictive (even vaping ads on the radio say so) the heated cocktail of chemicals that reaches our youngsters’ lungs cannot be ignored. Almost two hundred teenagers and adults have contracted severe lung illnesses after vaping, according to the U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention, and at least on death is linked to vaping. This is evidence enough for us to expect to see statements such as ‘vaping is safer than smoking’ retracted and transformed into ‘according to latest science, both vaping and smoking present serious health risks.’

It is true that we have yet to see the long-term effects on health, given that vaping started only a few years ago. Based on what we know so far about the relatively short-term ones, I’d say it is safe to assume that we will see quite a few, and the term life-threatening may be present.

When an otherwise healthy and fit teenager shared his story about his sudden lung collapse on social media, which included hospitalization, surgery and was attributed to vaping, it resonated with the young population. I know that some quit vaping or are seriously considering it. They are talking to their friends about it.

While this unfolds, and if the vaping manufacturers and retailers are really not wanting kids and teens to vape due to health risks and are willing to keep up the message that these devices are to help smokers quit smoking, then that’s how they should keep saying it. Repeatedly. On social media, wherever vaping products are being sold, and in ads around town. Parents and educators on the other hand, have to keep the momentum going. If vaping was never intended for our young ones, then we have to do all that we can to see that message delivered loud and clear; to claim back our children’s health, short and long-term.

Far-reaching messages such as ‘friends don’t let friends vape’ can go a long way. Supporting them as they support each other might just work, more so when it’s not nagging but facts that we can bring forth.

To paraphrase one of my favourite parenting educator and author, Barbara Coloroso, our kids are definitely worth it. The price of not believing and acting accordingly is too high.