Vaping: The New Sign of Sophistication

 In Blog, Media Literate Parenting, Neil Andersen

Cigarette smoking was promoted in the past as a sign of maturity and sophistication for a century. Celebrities smoked. Movie stars played smoking heroes. Smoking made fans feel like their heroes.

Young, sexy, smoking Marlene Deitrich

Then smoking became anti-social and cigarette-smoking declined. Vaping companies represent vaping as though intended for those who want to quit smoking, or at least get nicotine without carcinogens. But the products’ cool, sexy names, space-age designs and promotions suggest that they are using the cool factor to recruit new smokers as much as provide safe alternatives to cigarettes.

Today, parents have many legitimate concerns about vaping. Laws concerning cigarette sales and consumption are clear, but vaping is a new attraction. Its long-term effects are unknown. Cigarettes contain tobacco and other chemicals, but vaping offers a new cocktail of unknown chemicals and risks.

As with tobacco products during the last century, children are gaining illegal access to vaping supplies. The effects are unknown, and depend on at least two factors. First, vaping involves inhaling vaporized liquids, i.e., steam. No matter the ingredients, there is a risk in exposing delicate lung tissues to steam. Then there is the cocktail of flavours, odours and nicotine whose sources and effects are untested and unknown.

Note how the black background and back lighting emphasize the cloud.

Like cigarette smoking before it, vaping can include creative play.

Vaping is about flavour, but it is also about image. The large clouds of steam are part of the attraction. Vaping is performance art, and provides the same creative and social options as skateboarding, dancing or rapping.

Some of the issues families might discuss are logistical and medical, such as researching the potential risks and costs. But many people don’t quit smoking based on logistical and medical reasons; they quit based on feelings. Children who need to feel important or part of a peer group might choose vaping as an activity that will achieve those outcomes, but team activities, performing arts and clubs might provide the same feelings with less risks or costs. Understanding the reasons for vaping’s attractions and alternatives might help families make beneficial decisions.

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