Health experts stress more education as teen vaping levels skyrocket in Colorado

Vaping products displayed at an educational meeting at Palmer Ridge High School Jan. 15, 2020.
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MONUMENT, Colo. (KKTV) - Teen vaping has become an epidemic in Colorado.

The state's youth are vaping at twice the national average (27 percent versus 13 percent), and an even larger number of teens (50 percent) have admitted to vaping at least once. Last year, the El Paso County Board of Health declared vaping among teens a public health crisis. Some El Paso County students tell 11 News it feels like most kids are vaping.

Many teens don't realize the risk.

"When students were surveyed they said, 'Oh, I wouldn't use cigarettes, because cigarettes have nicotine and nicotine is bad for you,' but when they were asked, 'Does vape have nicotine?' they said 'no,' said Crystal Rasmussen, director of student services for Lewis-Palmer District 38.

D-38 hosted an informative meeting Wednesday night to educate students and parents on the dangers of vaping. Medical experts with El Paso County Public Health and Children's Hospital led the conversation.

"Just kids saying 'it's bad for you' isn't enough. I think kids need to know how bad it is and kids who aren't using it need to help other kids who are to get off," said parent Paul Numedahl.

According to the county health department, while a resounding 85 percent of El Paso County teens agree smoking is risky, less than half (47 percent) believed the same of vaping.

Some of the most commons myths teens believe, according to the state health department are:

- Vaping is a healthy alternative to cigarettes
- Vaping has nothing to do with smoking regular cigarettes
- It's just harmless water vapor
- Vapes don't contain nicotine

The reality:

- Vaping can lead to many health problems
- Young people who take up vaping are four times as likely to start smoking
- It's not just water; it may contain toxins, including some that can lead to major health problems
- Ninety-nine percent of e-cigarettes sold in convenience stores and grocery stores -- some of the most common places teens buy e-cigarettes -- contain nicotine. Juul, the most common brand, puts nicotine in all its products. Each Juul pod contains the same amount of nicotine as a pack of cigarettes.

The unknowns also make vaping risky. It's still relatively new and there's a lot doctors are still learning about long-term effects, such as what it does to the hearts and lungs.

Health experts stressed in the meeting that starting a conversation with your children early, before they hit their teen years, is key.

"The approach they take is really to start that conversation early because the marketing is gummy bear flavored and fruit-flavored and really appealing," Rasmussen said.

Resources to help parents begin that conversation, as well as statistics and more information on the risks of vaping, can be found here.

Numedahl hoped more people would attend future forums like the one Wednesday night.

"I truly think our kids' lives, they're on the line, and here we have kids who are as young as we saw today, 15? Fourteen, 15? Actually using this and we really don't know what the effects are."