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Go Back To School Tobacco-Free

As August begins and the 2023-2024 school year approaches, parents of middle schoolers and teens have a variety of things to consider ensuring their child is ready for school. Keeping kids from using tobacco and nicotine products might not seem as serious as other issues in today’s society. In fact, some parents may feel that smoking or other tobacco use is a “rite of passage” and that kids who start will outgrow the behavior as they get older. However, as e-cigarette use, or vaping, has become popular among Montana’s youth, misinformation has caused some to deviate more than they might have realized.

A.J. Allen, local tobacco education specialist, states “e-cigarettes are the most commonly used tobacco or nicotine products among Montana teens. More than half of Montana High school students have tried e-cigarettes or vaping and one in four vape on a daily basis.”

E-cigarettes are called many things, such as vapes, mods, ehookahs, vape pens, tank systems and JUULS. They heat a liquid into an aerosol (not vapor) that is inhaled into the user’s lungs. One misconception is this aerosol is harmless water. What is inhaled and exhaled from the device contains harmful substances such as ultra-fine particles that are inhaled into the lungs.

Another thing to note is that diacetyl is a chemical used in e-juice flavorings that has been linked to lung disease. Cancer causing chemicals and heavy metals such as nickel, tin and lead are also found in vaping devices.

“Once teens start using tobacco and nicotine in any form, including vaping products, they can quickly become addicted, and that addiction can lead to a lifetime of serious health problems,” states Allen.

Consider that many of the ecigarettes or vaping products available today at minimum have as much nicotine as a pack of cigarettes, many of them with far more nicotine. An e-cigarette user could become the equivalent of a pack-a-day smoker without realizing it.

Nicotine is highly addictive and, in any form, unsafe for the development of the young brain. Nicotine can also prime the brain for addiction to other drugs in the future. Often times, these products are used as a method to de-stress, but most people don’t realize that the use of tobacco or nicotine is actually a stressor.

To help keep your children from using tobacco or vaping products, some important steps you can take include:

•Visit with your children about how addictive and dangerous tobacco and vaping can be.

•Make your home and your vehicles tobacco-free for everyone from family members, friends and guests.

•Tell your children you expect them to be tobacco free.

•Encourage your children to be involved in activities at school, church or in the community.

•Don’t let your children watch movies, TV programming, or video games that depict tobacco use.

•Find out where your community stands on policies known to reduce tobacco use by youth, such as school-based tobacco bans, smoke free policies and high prices on tobacco products.

•Set a good example by not using tobacco yourself For questions on how to quit tobacco products, including electronic cigarettes, contact Allen at 406-653-6212.

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