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    What You Need to Know About the Vaping Epidemic

    It's no secret that the biggest public health concern in the US right now is the teen vaping epidemic. Vaping has been overwhelming the news cycle in recent months and the statistics prove why.  

    Nationally, 20% of high school students reported using e-cigarettes in the past month – up from 1.5% in 2011. In Massachusetts, the number of high schoolers vaping DOUBLES to 41 percent. What was originally supposed to be a substitute for adult smokers trying to quit has rapidly become a serious threat among adolescents, as well as adults. 
    Here's what you should know about oral health and vaping.
    Vaping has a direct effect on oral health.

    While many still consider vaping as not quite as harmful to oral health as smoking cigarettes, vaping can have a negative effect on teeth and overall oral health. E-cigarettes release formaldehyde when heated with batteries set at high voltages. The aerosol or vapor, which users inhale, can contain nicotine, ultrafine particles that can be inhaled deep into the lungs, chemicals linked to lung disease, volatile organic compounds, cancer-causing chemicals, and heavy metals such as nickel, tin, and lead. 

    Exposure to e-cigarette aerosol can lead to more bacteria in the mouth, which is associated with tooth decay, cavities, and gum diseases. It can also cause dry mouth, inflamed gums, and other issues. The flavoring capsules in e-cigarettes can lead to cavities and increase the risk of developing chronic lung diseases. 
    There are serious broader dangers surrounding vaping, particularly among adolescents.
    Most e-cigarettes contain nicotine, which we know is addictive. Nicotine has very serious effects, especially on the teen brain. It can harm brain development, which occurs into your mid-20s. It affects parts of the brain that control attention, learning, mood and impulse control. Nicotine causes that "pleasure center" activation and the feeling becomes highly addictive - more so than alcohol and cannabis, and similar to cocaine. Vaping in particular causes faster absorption of nicotine and thus gives users that "high" quicker than cigarettes, leading to even greater addiction.
    It's important for families discuss these important issues, especially with teens.
    While there is no singular, proven way to assist adolescents who want to quit vaping, we have to work together and be proactive now, or this will continue to get worse. Creating an opportunity for an open conversation about the effects of vaping and e-cigarettes is the first step to reversing the epidemic. And there are many resources available that can help start that conversation.
    There are resources are available to help families tackle vaping and its health concerns.

    • The American Lung Association is a great resource for parents and patients to learn more about vaping and its risks. 
    • Get Outraged is a guide from the Massachusetts Department of Public Health for talking to kids about the dangers of vaping.
    • The Office of the Surgeon General has great resources for parents.
    • The Center for Disease Control also has information for providers on its website, including an informational page all about tobacco use in adolescents.