From another project I’m working on called Reality Therapy:

Vaping is a thing.

It wasn’t long ago when I was told that vaping was considered a smoking cessation tool. Much of popular culture is still under the delusion that vaping is an almost innocuous habit that is instrumental in helping people quit cigarettes. Vaping is safe, right? What we’ve been learning in the last couple of months, much to our chagrin, is that vaping is much more insipid than society seems to understand or is at the very least, willing to admit. Let us lay a few thoughts on you.

We’ve been polling high schools and teachers and EA’s and social workers and the teens themselves, and in the Fraser Valley people are telling us EVERY week that as many as 70% of high schoolers in this area are vaping. Surely that can’t be true. That number, even if it is overly generous, is staggering. And it gets way way worse. The amounts of nicotine that teens and adults are ingesting has gone through the roof. Just today a teen told me that teens everywhere are now doing 30mg+ level. Only a year ago it seemed like the heaviest smokers were embarrassed to admit they were at 12. Teens regularly report numbers as high as 36 or even 50mg. A cigarette is equivalent to somewhere between 4 and 16mg. I haven’t even mentioned the fact that vaping has no end game (chain vaping) or that there are very real signs that vaping creates an oral fixation. Teens around here report vaping all day, every day. They stress if they cannot touch their vape.

But they are in class for 6 hours, you point out. That may be true, but our sources gleefully admit that they smoke WAY more than they used to, often at 5 or 7 times the nicotine levels. We know people who vape when they get up in the middle of the night to pee.

So we have been asking youth audiences: “a new kid comes to your high school having never vaped. How likely is she to pick up the habit?” (Coincidently, we often ask teen groups this question with regard to how long it takes a new nerd from Saskatchewan to be offered weed. You don’t want to know the answer). Everyone to whom we have thus far posited this question puts the percentage north of 60. If a majority of kids are vaping, what chance does the average immature teenager (who is neurologically wired for experimentation and social bonding) have?

It’s a cultural shift.

We have no idea the effect this will have on our health, although all signs point to bad. A recent NBC article pointed out that “Smoking e-cigarettes delivers cancer-causing chemicals that get into the body — and popular fruity flavors appear to be the worst, researchers reported Monday. They said teenagers who try vaping may be poisoning themselves with many of the same chemicals that make traditional cigarettes so deadly. Tests on teenagers show that those who smoke tobacco-based cigarettes as well have the highest levels of these chemicals in their bodies, but those who vape e-cigarettes also have higher levels of the cancer-causing chemicals than nonsmokers do, the team at the University of California, San Francisco, found. “The presence of harmful ingredients in e-cigarette vapor has been established‍; we can now say that these chemicals are found in the body of human adolescents who use these products,” they wrote in their report, published in the journal Pediatrics. (Such claims and positions are vehemently challenged by the vaping community, lending further credence to the argument that we still don’t really know how this is going to play out in the next few decades).

I thought vaping helped people quit smoking?

It tastes like strawberry. Nothing is more sexy than a bunch of poser teens trying to look cool while vaping cotton candy. It’s almost as if having a flavoured nicotine delivery system that tasted like watermelon was designed to appeal to young users. Hum. People are vaping on buses, the driver isn’t paid enough to care. High schoolers have even told us that kids are vaping in class, as soon as the teacher’s back is turned. No one is going to admit who the culprit was, and those ridiculous helicopter parents will mutilate any teacher who dares to mete out a group punishment. Geeks vape. Hockey players vape. Christian kids vape. Even athletes vape, though allegedly at slightly lower levels. Parents let their kids vape in their home, they simply don’t know how to respond to such  a persistent addiction and a grouchy detoxing teen. Is it really worth the fight?

It might be, although there is so little factual information on vaping that it’s almost impossible to be sure. Did we say addiction? We meant two addictions. Smokers have not traditionally insisted that they get a dome rush (head rush) multiple times a day, but our clients regularly report that most trips to the smoke pit are capped off with this nicotine rush; that can’t be good. They’re smoking incessantly, at higher levels, until they get a buzz.

Have you heard of zeroing out? Just hold that smoke in until you can breathe and nothing comes out. There’s no way that could be bad for you, right? Did you know there are other things besides nicotine that you can vape? Don’t worry though, strawberries are good for you, right?

So what’s the deal with vaping and why aren’t we talking about it?

As with so many of the issues we will be arguing about in our upcoming podcast, it seems that as a culture we are blindly walking into a future for which we have so little real information. We are technological guinea pigs, we aren’t even close to understanding or even recognizing the potential damage from vaping 16 hours a day, and we haven’t a firm clue about the effects of drug legalization, giving a 9 year old a phone with unfettered access to porn, or even if Facebook and others are attempting to invade our privacy and fill our walls with video screens reminiscent of some freakish nightmare out of George Orwell’s 1984.

What is the effect of checking your text messages 400 times a day (yes thats a thing) on your brain? How will the legalization of marijuana affect an entire country? How many people, some of whom will have a proclivity towards addiction, will start to smoke pot now that it is legal? (Yes some people don’t do drugs because of the law). What is Dawn going to say when her teen tells her he wants to drink/smoke/vape/have sex? What does it feel like to be a marginalized person? Is technology messing with your mind? Is there really much difference between diagnosis and palm reading? Why do some men think women are crazy? Is addiction really a disease? Would you know if you’re a psychopath? What does it feel like to be high? Can anger be a drug? Should you be yourself if you’re an idiot?

Join us for our upcoming podcast series Reality Therapy as Dawn and Scott deep dive into the fascinating and fruit-filled world of vaping, sex, technology, mind palaces and youth addiction, brain science and strains of weed, cell phone addiction and weird people. Nothing is out of bounds and we guarantee you won’t hear anything like this, anywhere else. All that, and our infamous “Top 5 Things Parents Do Wrong”, coming this winter.

Dawn Taylor M.A. RCC
Scott Williams M.A. RCC

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