Trending: vaping youth and athletes. Problem UNSOLVED :(
Social research confirms the science
All it took was a quick text about the prevalence of vaping from a former client/D1 scholarship athlete to be convinced to investigate the trend.
According to the centeronaddiction.org, vaping is defined as “the act of inhaling and exhaling the aerosol, often referred to as vapor, which is produced by an e-cigarette or similar device. The term is used because e-cigarettes do not produce tobacco smoke, but rather an aerosol, often mistaken for water vapor, that actually consists of fine particles. Many of these particles contain varying amounts of toxic chemicals, which have been linked to cancer, as well as respiratory and heart disease.”
Not everyone understands vaping and what is does to the body. Even top athletes have been mislead about the dangers of vaping through confusing claims that it enhances performance. Researchers are targeting very specific physical tasks, but what these experiments completely overlook are the detrimental side-effects of the vaping ingredients including the chief component, nicotine. Vaping supporters even claim the short term side-effects of vaping go away once the body is “used to it.” But what about the long terms effects? Practically unmentioned.
The most popular vaping product is the Juul and the act is referred to as “juuling.” Starter kits contain the device, a usb charger and flavored nicotine pods and are available for about $50 online with a credit card. While the original target audience may have been adults looking for an alternative to traditional cigarettes, unfortunately, the uptake from teenagers across the country has reached epidemic proportions.
There are many things we want our children to be, but addicted is not one of them. We use the acronym OCD (obsessive compulsive disorder) freely (and erroneously) when describing activities of daily life. We may joke about individuals and their habits of cleaning, tidying, eating, and exercising as obsessions. Although these can be coping mechanisms for many, some may have true obsessions that are overlooked because of our collective flip attitudes. The same is true for addictions. We may admit to a chocolate “addiction,” but the reality is that no one has a dependence on chocolate. Social joking seriously deflates the detrimental consequences of addictive behaviors and may contribute missed signals. We may not take the time to define where addictions are manifesting and in turn, we allow chemicals to continuously infect our society, sadly even our children, at a scary rate.
Protecting youth requires a degree in marketing
Thankfully we are learning more and more each day, how chemicals increase specific behaviors, and for better or worse, marketers are capitalizing on these findings. Hence, the explosion of vaping among youth. And when I say youth, I mean 12 years old or possibly even younger. So, if you are under the impression that attending a high school presentation on vaping is going to help prevent your teen from making bad decisions, work more aggressively, because they may be knee deep into a trend with a solid foundation since 7th grade, possible even sooner.
Candy crush becomes real
Nicotine is a drug. A highly addictive drug, that causes acute and long-term changes in the brain that make it very difficult to quit. These chemical changes may increase addictions to other drugs, activities and elements of living. Not only does JUUL contain nicotine, b ut there are additional toxic chemicals in the cartridges that the National Institute on Health and Centers for Disease Control have deemed carcinogenics. Enough said?
Almost. It is necessary to include one last piece of important information for your “to do” list; educate yourself about the behaviors and side effects associated with vaping/tobacco use etc., and implement the following steps:
1. As a parent
Take inventory: Keep checking on backpacks, drawers, under beds and bookshelves and so forth, to constantly maintain awareness of lifestyle changes among your children. Know that JUULING (even with flavors) does not smell, and devices look just like a flash drive. Remember kids will feel certain behaviors are a right of passage and will continue to push limits of possessing “new” things. But addiction is not a right of passage; it is actually a cause of greater dependency. Tell them if they want to be independent, nicotine will do just the opposite. It will weaken their resistance and make them more dependent on many things in life.
2. As a coach
Keep in mind the words of John Wooden:
I did not want a person on our team who was reluctant to sacrifice for the good of the team. I prized the individual who was eager to sacrifice for our common good.
An excellent coach understands their job entails far more than just technique and game-tactics. They need to be a mentor, a protector, a teacher, and just plain smart. The biggest challenge for coaches is to maintain all of the different aspects of coaching while still producing a winning team. But if coaches pride and prioritize healthy and smart decisions, they will develop productive athletes, who are winning on and off the playing field.
Needless to say, this mentality varies among professional level sports, yet the many pro-coaches I have worked with demonstrate a priority for health-first and far outlive the win-at-all costs coaches. They are also aware of things that may be enticing their athletes such as certain marketing ploys promoting enhanced performance. And contrary to certain studies that promote nicotine as a positive, it certainly will cause distraction and is dangerous for the body. As a coach, know this, and share it with your athletes on more than one occasion. Adamantly press the issue of clean training, then back off for a few weeks, and revisit it again to reiterate the message. The brain digests information best using periodization, just like building muscles.
3. As a teammate
Teammates come from all walks and moral pathways. Some naturally embrace healthy living, where as some do not always see the big picture soon enough due to lack of exposure to it during their upbringing. It’s important for the teammates that understand health risks to speak up or out, in a setting where they feel comfortable to share their knowledgeable blessing. For example, talk to the coach if you see something off or hear chatter of unhealthy behaviors. Keep it simple, and ask the coach to explain the common side effects of vaping, nicotine use and other unhealthy habits. If you feel comfortable talking directly to your teammate sometimes this is the best path.
Education and conversation are the key elements for developing healthy environments in homes, schools and training facilities. It is not one conversation that develops a solid healthy foundation, but a series of conversations approached from every possible angle. Rest assured that if addictions are understood, they can be prevented rather than developed.