3 Things To Know About Social Media And Vaping

Dr. Delaney Ruston – One of the stories that teens and adults particularly find captivating in our new film, Screenagers Under The Influence: Addressing Vaping, Drugs, and Alcohol in the Digital Age, involves a wonderful girl named Ellie. Ellie started trying her friends’ vapes at parties and loved the “head high” from the nicotine.  Because she enjoyed the “way it made (her) feel,” she was soon buying her own e-cigarettes. 

We all would love for our kids not to smoke now or in the future. The reality is that some high school students, middle school students, and even some younger kids vape using e-cigarettes. 

Many parents are convinced that their child has never used such devices, nor ever will. How could they? Haven’t we drilled into their heads how bad smoking is for people? 

As a physician, I can tell you that many of my teen patients have said they indeed use e-cigarettes, and their parents are unaware of this.  Ellie, from the film, did not let her parents know she had been vaping for quite a long time. 

A survey of parents released last week provides some interesting data about parents’ beliefs when it comes to their children and vaping.  Here are a few of the findings: 

  1. 4 out of 5 parents believe their children are clear on the risks of vaping
  2. Nearly Half of the parents report that they think they would definitely know if their child was vaping. 
  3. Most parents do not think their children vape.

In reality, many young people do not know about the risks of vaping. Several investigations have shown this to be the case. For example, studies find that many youth believe that water vapor is inhaled when vaping and yet it is actually an aerosol mist. This aerosol is loaded with microscopic particles that damage lung parenchyma. 

The fact that nearly half of parents think they would definitely know if their child was vaping is a testament to our wishful thinking. I know plenty of teens who have super strong relationships with their parents but who hide the fact that they vape from them.

One reason vaping can go under one’s radar is that the fruity scent of vaping can be mistaken for gum or candy, if it is smelled at all. 

So now, let’s relate this to social media and productive conversation topics we can have with our children or students this week.

  1. Social media has contributed to the current vaping epidemic. In Screenagers Under The Influence, we see the ways social media contributed, including how companies like JUUL paid influencers to do posts with their products without saying they were being paid. There are many other examples as well. 
  2. Social media can help people change behaviors by tapping into the power of accountability. In this way, social media can help people quit vaping. In our new film, we see how Ellie uses social media as she goes on a journey to try and quit vaping. 
  3. Social media can be a significant trigger to wanting to vape. I have heard from many adolescents that when they are on social media, they see others vaping, making them want to do the same.  

Questions to get the conversation started:

  1. Do you think social media has influenced your views or attitudes toward vaping? How so?
  2. Have you ever seen anyone vaping on social media or in real life? How did it make you feel?
  3. Do you think it is important for companies to disclose when they are paying influencers to promote their products on social media? Why or why not?
  4. Have you ever seen someone use social media as a tool to help them change an unwanted behavior?