Vaping rates among youth decreases during pandemic, but use increases risk of COVID-19

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CENTRE COUNTY, Pa. (WTAJ) — After a year of at-home learning, the Food and Drug Administration reports a plummet in middle and high school students who say they use e-cigarettes or vape products.

40% less students report the use of vape products; however, that still means there’s still about 2 million vaping, and there’s concern those numbers may rise to previous rates with the return of in-person school and social activities.

“That’s a ripe age for brain development and nicotine can really affect a lot of those different stages and have long term effects later in life,” said Christopher Mamrol (BSN, RN, CPPS), senior patient safety liaison for the Pennsylvania Patient Safety Authority.

In the midst of a pandemic, a new concern arises. Studies show vaping can make adolescents over five times more likely to contract COVID-19.

While Marmol said vaping isn’t as harmful as smoking cigarettes, he added, “That’s not to say vaping is safe, however. Vaping still exposes, there’s still lots of nicotine in vaping cartridges, as well as heavy metals, other organic compounds that can be harmful to the lungs.”

Experts say vaping is done socially among young people.

Parents are encouraged to talk with their children if they notice behavioral changes or see a clear sign.

“Vaping cartridges don’t always look like a cigarette or what you would think a vape looks like, sometimes it’ll look like a USB drive, a pen, a key fob to a car, something along those lines,” said Marmol.

Marmol said education on the risks can be pivotal.

“Really the key is finding an opening to talk about it, so whether you see somebody using a vape cartridge, or you see an advertisement on T.V. or in a store, is a good opportunity to say, ‘Hey, do any of your friends vape? Have you ever tried vaping?’,” said Marmol. “That’s a good lead in, and then really just share the risk factors associated with it.” 

The FDA is currently in the middle of reviewing what brands of e-cigarettes can stay on the shelves, which could lead to larger limitations on the vaping industry.

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