I often guest speak at local middle and high schools about the risks of underage and illegal substance use.  My message in these presentations is that, in adolescence, our brains are still developing and that can put us at risk for developing substance use disorders when we use substances underage.  I close by showing these classes data from across the state showing teens perceptions of peer substance use and the reality of substance use for youth in Colorado.  This is usually the moment in my presentations when I get to say, “Hey! Look how great you guys are!  The majority of you don’t drink/smoke weed/abuse prescription pills!” 

But I’ve run into a problem with this approach. 

What do I say if we aren’t doing great? 

*Enter youth vaping use in Colorado*

Did you know that our youth are vaping at twice the national average?  Colorado youth lead the nation in highest rates of youth vaping use. 

In recent months I have noticed a drastic shift in how this vaping epidemic is shaping our schools.  At one high school I visit often, teachers now have to lock single-occupant bathrooms so students can’t vape between classes.   At another middle school a teacher was telling me that he now has to be hyper-aware of who is asking to use the bathroom and when, as he has realized that several students step out to vape in the middle of class.  Other teachers have mentioned that they notice a difference in students affects throughout the day, attributing it to the highs and lows of nicotine use.

I think that we are about to see a huge influx in education and policy surrounding youth vaping use in our communities.  I know that my message to youth in our community is changing.  I will always work to focus on the positive with youth in our community, but now that message is going to come with facts about the risks of vaping and the importance of saying no.  

To learn more about vaping and how to talk with your own kids visit these great resources provided by Larimer County!