Colorado reported higher youth vape use than any other state in the country in 2017. One in four Colorado youths reported vaping in 2019. 

Now Colorado youths are facing an unprecedented pandemic that is many feeling anxious, depressed and lonely. Still, the impact of the pandemic on youth tobacco use remains unclear. 

Although there’s information to support that youth vaping is down because of less social interaction with their peers, we also know there’s a strong relationship between youth tobacco use and mental health, including depression, anxiety and stress.

On and off school closures, having to stay physically distant from friends and worries about family job loss are all impacting youth mental health. 

And even though the end of some of these worries may feel within reach, the long-term effects on youth are still unknown. 

Prior to the pandemic, research showed that about half of Colorado youth had tried to quit smoking or vaping, so teens who are turning to tobacco as a way to cope may be struggling even more. 

Anxiety or stress may also arise as a result of nicotine withdrawal and vaping or smoking may temporarily relieve these feelings, leading to a vicious cycle.

Now more than ever, parents, teachers, healthcare professionals and other trusted adults play an important role in preventing youth tobacco use and in getting young people connected with the 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 and discipline them.

But, this may make them even more secretive and unwilling to discuss the issue. Be aware of your teen’s overall mood and know their friends. 

Unusual irritability, a sudden decline in school attendance or grades, or keeping new friends a secret might be signs your teen is exploring unhealthy behaviors such as tobacco. Nicotine withdrawal can increase irritability.

The decision to quit tobacco is one your teen must make themselves but there are resources available, like My Life, My Quit that are specifically designed to help young people cut back or quit tobacco. 

My Life, My Quit offers 24/7 hour coaching support to reach teens where they are and provide an easy-to-use, non-judgmental experience.

Youth ages 12-17 can simply text “Start my quit” to 36072 to get connected with a coach or to receive quit tips. Online and phone support is also available.

Here are tips for how you can support your teen and connect them with the resources that can help them quit:

• Let your teen 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’s website.

Local support is available from Chaffee County Public Health at: 719-530-2572 and borrill@chaffeecounty.org

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