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What parents should know about teen vaping

Family | The Food and Drug Administration warns of a youth health crisis
by Kiley Crossland
Posted 8/23/19, 02:54 pm

Health officials across the country are reporting severe breathing illnesses in teens and young adults who use e-cigarettes, or vape. Doctors have hospitalized as many as 50 people in at least six states for a condition that resembles an inhalation injury, in which the body reacts to a caustic substance that someone breathed in. Patients report shortness of breath, fatigue, chest pain, and vomiting.

News of those illnesses adds to mounting evidence that vaping causes severe harm, especially to young people. A study released this week found just a few puffs on a nicotine-free e-cigarette damages blood vessels, adding to previous research findings that vaping increases signs of inflammation and tissue injury. Another recent study showed young people who vape are more than three times as likely to use marijuana than those who don’t use e-cigarettes. Researchers said the findings, reported earlier this month in the journal JAMA Pediatrics, support the theory that exposure to an addictive substance like nicotine rewires a developing brain and makes it more sensitive to other substances.

“It tends to seek a thrilling, rewarding sensation,” Nicholas Chadi, the study’s lead author and a fellow at Boston Children’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School, told CNN. “And so other substances like marijuana become more appealing.”

Many teens vape to self-medicate amid rising rates of depression and anxiety, said Michelle Cretella, the executive director of the American College of Pediatricians. While social media and cellphones enable connection to virtual friends, she said, they also paradoxically isolate young people: “This technology, combined with the ongoing decline of the nuclear family and the typical pressures associated with adolescence, has led to a mental health crisis among our youth unlike any other.”

Cretella said parents looking for signs their child could be vaping should pay attention to what they eat and drink, as well as physical symptoms. Vaping removes moisture from the skin of the mouth and throat, often leading to increased thirst. It also causes “vaper’s tongue,” a condition in which e-cigarette users perceive food as less flavorful and crave more salty and spicy things. Vaping also can cause nosebleeds, acne in otherwise clear skin, and coughing and wheezing.

E-cigarette companies argue their battery-powered products are intended to help adults stop smoking cigarettes, but their easy-to-conceal design and fun flavors have led to an epidemic of nicotine addiction in teenagers.

The vaping industry sued the U.S. government last week to delay an upcoming review of its products. The legal challenge, filed in U.S. District Court in Kentucky, is the latest hurdle in the Food and Drug Administrations’ push to regulate the multibillion-dollar industry. In June, a federal judge pushed up a deadline for e-cigarette companies to submit products for federal review.

Cretella said adults, especially parents, need to communicate to young people there is no way to “smoke safe.” And in a world where space for family conversations is dwindling, one practical way to fight vaping is for families to eat together. “The family table is an effective way to maintain family connectedness which will protect your teen’s mental health,” she said.

Getty Images/Photo by Drew Angerer Getty Images/Photo by Drew Angerer A transgender activist on the steps of New York City Hall

A father’s cry

An Illinois father penned a heartfelt editorial in USA Today this week lamenting his thwarted efforts to get help for his transgender-identifying child who is on the autism spectrum.

Jay Keck detailed how his 14-year-old daughter, who had never exhibited any previous gender dysphoria, suddenly declared she was transgender after meeting another female student at her high school who said she was identifying as the opposite sex. Despite the fact Keck’s daughter had clear and documented underlying mental health conditions, her school embraced the new identity without informing Keck or his wife. School administrators also began referring to her by a male name and male pronouns. Once the girl told her parents she was identifying as transgender, Keck and his wife requested the school call her by her legal name, but administrators ignored their plea.

Keck’s story embodies the cost of an ideology that refuses to acknowledge the role of peer pressure and mental health problems in spiking rates of transgender-identifying youth. After a school-approved psychologist examined the girl, he told her parents it was clear that underlying mental health conditions drove her sudden transgender identity. But the psychologist refused to share that conclusion with the school district, fearing backlash under the state’s “conversion therapy” ban.

“Now, thanks in large part to my daughter’s school, my daughter is more convinced than ever that she is a boy and that testosterone may be necessary for her to become her authentic self,” wrote Keck, adding his now-18-year-old daughter can access testosterone injections at any one of Illinois’ 17 Planned Parenthood facilities. “No extensive mental health assessment will be required, and there will be nothing I can do to stop her.” —K.C.

Associated Press/Photo by Dan Anderson (file) Associated Press/Photo by Dan Anderson (file) A Drag Queen Story Hour at a public library in Mobile, Ala.

Common sense

Public library officials in Wichita, Kan., failed to pass a proposal this week that would have required library presenters, including so-called “drag queens,” to undergo background checks for past sex offenses. The proposal, submitted by a local pastor, comes almost a year after the city’s downtown library hosted a controversial Drag Queen Story Hour event that drew more than 220 adults and children but also sparked protests. At a meeting on Tuesday, the library board generally agreed it should check the background of presenters but disagreed about whether it would allow registered sex offenders to present in some circumstances, The Wichita Eagle reported. —K.C.

Back to court

A Virginia school board said late last week it intends to appeal a federal court ruling that forces it to allow students to use restrooms and locker rooms that correspond with their self-declared gender identity. The Gloucester County School Board had established a policy requiring students to use either a private restroom or the facility corresponding to their biological sex for the protection of their privacy and safety. On Friday, the board said it is complying with the order “while it pursues an appeal.” —K.C.

Kiley Crossland

Kiley reports on marriage, family, and sexuality for WORLD Digital. Follow Kiley on Twitter @KileyCrossland.

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