Moms, let’s protect our children from smoking and vaping

Moms, let’s protect our children from smoking and vaping

By: Assoc. Prof Dr Nur Amani Ahmad Tajuddin

It is that time of the year where we celebrate World No Tobacco Day again, every 31 May. And each year, every day, as moms, we try so hard to protect our children in so many ways. But now specifically, from the threat of the new toys in town: the vape.

We have heard many stories whether it is on our own country, or outside, teenagers vaping faced so many detrimental consequences. From EVALI, to being intubated, to not being able to play their favourite sports, to being involved in illicit drug use, and being raped after being introduced to a type of vape by a group of teenage boys.

Are we not worried? About what? About our daughters, and sons. They are our heart and soul. No matter how much you want them to have the freedom of choice, we are still their parents. We need to be there for them, to guide them. You may say, I do not want to be controlling my children. Of course, we must be there for them, to teach them, show them the right path, then let them think and decide, right?

Our children’s frontal lobe, which is the front part of the brain, absorbs information like a sponge absorbing water without filter. Until 25 years old, then their brain cells mature. What do we do with them? Do we poison them with smoke, with vape, with shisha? No! we should lead them towards healthy lifestyle.

Healthy lifestyle does not mean you have to pay expensive fees for the gym, or spend hundreds of ringgits on protein shake—well, you can if you have the luxury—but healthy lifestyle is a lot more to do with perspectives and reality.

It is about balanced diet; eating the right kind of food in the right portion. It is about exercising or doing physical activities, yes; but also spending quality time together as a family. And of course, living healthily means breathing healthy air that is free from smoking or vaping chemicals.

The nicotine in a cigarette or in the vape juice is harmful. Science has proven from decades of high-quality research, that it is the culprit for addiction. What does this mean? It means, if your child puffs a smoke or a vape, their brain will quickly get addicted to the product, and they want to have the next puff and the next. And this cycle will continue, until someone realizes that your child needs help.

Addiction to smoking and vaping is not easy to treat especially in children or teenagers. Because they will constantly be exposed to multifactorial causes such as peer pressure, bad role modelling by parents or siblings who smokes or vapes, to social media contents portraying celebrities, artists, and influencers as “cool” when vaping, and the list goes on.

There are more than 6,000 chemicals in a cigarette with more than 60 cancer-causing agents, while the chemicals in vape juices are always falsely claimed as lesser and safer than cigarettes, they can contain more than 1000 types of harmful chemicals. Please do not be fooled by the marketing strategy of portraying vaping as less harmful, as the keyword here is ‘harm’ which clearly brings them to ‘danger’.

What is more dangerous is that, from a program called Henti, Elak, Basmi Asap Tembakau (HEBAT) since 2022 at secondary schools in Klang Valley, the students have been experimenting with vape juices containing magic mushroom, a type of drug substance that is hallucinogenic and can cause breathing difficulty, inability to think, increase in heart rate, before the blood pressure crashes, which later may lead to death if not intervened early by the medical team.

A few teenagers from a school in Petaling Jaya has been experimenting with crushed road tar, diluting it into the vape juice as it gives a better “kick” than drinking alcohol. Teenagers in the West have also been documented to putting in other types of drugs and stimulants into their vape juices.

Moms, you have the magic in creating the bond with your children. Let them know that you love them, and protect them at all costs from the dangers of smoking and vaping. Children who are exposed to parental smoke, are at high risk of serious lung infections, asthma attacks, ear infection, attention deficit disorders, growth problems, skin problems and many others. They are at high risk of mental health problems, such as depression and anxiety or even suicidal thoughts, especially if they become smokers or vapers. Do not let their future be burned by smoking or vaping.

Please ask your children with whom they mix with, and whether their friends smoke or vape. Do know that those teenagers who have joined HEBAT program since 2022, they know that smoking and vaping are dangerous, but due to addiction, it is difficult for them to stop. They want help, to stop the bad habits of smoking and vaping.

Sometimes they are afraid to talk to their parents, for fear of being scolded or even chased out of the house. Please talk to them and listen to them. Help them, find ways to help them to quit, if they have started.

Help is available at the MOH health clinics, the university hospitals or at private clinics or certified counsellors. If you need more information about dangers of smoking and vaping, please talk to health experts, or read reliable online resources.

Because the theme of the World No Tobacco Day 2024 is, “Protecting children from tobacco industry interference”, let’s protect our children. It is never too late to start protecting them from the dangers of smoking and vaping, and please do not be easily fooled by the tobacco industry.

The author is a mother, a family physician and tobacco control advocator from the Department of Primary Care Medicine, Faculty of Medicine, Universiti Malaya. She may be reached at [email protected]

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