In 2017 Colorado reported higher youth vape use than any other state in the country. In 2019, one in four Colorado youth reported vaping, as reported by the Colorado Healthy Kids survey. Now, Colorado youth are facing an unprecedented pandemic that is leaving many to feel anxious, depressed, and lonely. In Chaffee County, the Communities that Care program reports that their survey tracked levels of tobacco use among the county’s teenagers that are much higher than the state’s. Among the reasons why; acceptance of the behavior by youth and parents.
The impact of the pandemic on youth tobacco use remains unclear, but the impact of tobacco use is a clear health risk.
While there is information to support that vaping among youth is down due to less social interactions with peers, it is also known that there is a strong relationship between youth tobacco use and mental health including depression, anxiety and stress. The consistent on and off school closures, having to stay physically distant from friends and worries surrounding family job loss are all impacting youth mental health. Though some of these worries may feel within reach, the long-term impacts on youth are still unknown.
Prior to the pandemic, research showed that nearly half of Colorado youth had tried to quit smoking or vaping, so teens turning to tobacco as a way to cope may be struggling even more. Anxiety and stress may also arise as a result of nicotine withdrawal and vaping or smoking may temporarily relieve these feelings thus leading to a vicious cycle.
Parents, teachers, healthcare professionals and other trusted adults play an important role in preventing youth tobacco use and helping young people get connected with resources that can help them cut back or quit.
If you suspect your child may be using tobacco, your first instinct may be to confront or discipline them. This may make them even more secretive and unwilling to discuss the issue. Chaffee County Public Health recommends that parents should be aware of their teen’s overall mood and know their friends. Unusual irritability, a sudden decline in school attendance or grades, and keeping new friends a secret might be signs your teen is using tobacco.
The decision to quit tobacco is one the teen must make themselves but there are resources available that are specifically designed to help young people cut back and quit tobacco. One such resource is My Life, My Quit, which offers coaching support 24/7 to reach teens where they are and provide an easy-to-use, non-judgmental experience. Youth ages 12 to 17 can simply text “Start my quit” to 36072 to get connected with a coach and receive quit tips. Online and phone support is also available.
Below is a list of recommended ways to help support teens and connect them with resources that can help them quit:
- Let them know you are concerned about the impact of tobacco use, including vaping, on their current and long-term health.
- Many teens believe vaping is not tobacco. Let your teen know most vaping products contain nicotine and have the same addictive properties whether they are smoking cigarettes, vaping nicotine or using other types of e-cigarettes.
- Ask if they want help and let them know you have a resource that is free and confidential.
- Tell them you want to support them and ask if they will sign up for the My Life, My Quit program. If they are not willing to enroll right then, provide them with information about how to enroll and let them know they have support to help them quit.
- If your teen is ready to get started, they can text, call or enroll online. It’s fast and simple.
- Your teen may want help taking the first step of calling or sending the text. But remember, your teen needs to do the work in order to be successful.
- For more information on how to talk to youth about tobacco and support them in quitting or cutting back on tobacco, visit My Life, My Quit or Tobacco Free Colorado.
Local support is also available from Chaffee County Public Health at 719-530-2572 or contact Bev Orrill at email@example.com