Local expert: Vaping addiction a real problem

Michigan

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Nationally certified tobacco addiction specialist Libby Stern with Spectrum Health says she’s seeing parents who need help to get their kids off vaping.

“Parents have asked questions about how to handle it,” Stern said of vaping. “They don’t know what to do. It’s one thing if your kids are smoking cigarettes, it’s obvious. But with these products, not necessarily.”

Stern, who works in Grand Rapids, supports the statewide ban that went into effect Wednesday prohibiting the sale of flavored nicotine vaping products. She believes the flavor is the first lure for teens and then the nicotine gets them hooked.

“It’s both, right? It’s the device, the devices are novel, it’s cool. Their friends are doing it and they want to be a part of that,” Stern explained.

Getting hooked on nicotine is easy and quitting can be a bear. Former smokers say vaping can help. Rick Jensen, a former smoker who now works in the health care industry, learned that the hard way after smoking a pack of cigarettes every day for 15 years.

Calling quitting one of the hardest things he has ever done, he said hypnotism is what finally allowed him to kick the habit for good. He admits he occasionally used a vaping cigarette along the way.   

“Having the vaping cigarette with me was kind of like my crutch or my cane for when I was having a really weak moment and I just needed something to get by. I believe that the way I vaped to quit smoking was helpful in my case,” he said. But, he added, “I’m not sure I would recommend others to vape knowing what we know now.”

Teen vaping has become a national epidemic. Just last month, a federal survey showed 1 in 4 high school students are vaping. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says nearly 30% reported using an e-cigarette in the last month, up from 20% in 2018.

“Things are going to continue to escalate and you have a lot of young people dealing with addiction when if it had not been available to them, these are kids that would not have smoked,” Stern said. 

She said we have to start somewhere and the ban is the first step.

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