CHESTERFIELD, VA (WWBT) - There are startling details when it comes to e-cigarettes and the number of children in Central Virginia using them.
Experts say they’re starting as early as middle school and are becoming addicted to nicotine. It’s why Chesterfield School leaders and the county-wide PTA gathered Monday night to learn more about the trend.
Experts say now is the time to talk to your children, not to scare or scold them, but to simply educate them because there’s no question their peers are using e-cigarettes.
“You see it in bathrooms. You see it in classrooms. They just slide it up their sleeves real quick and then puff it in their shirt and teachers don’t even notice,” ninth-grader Gabriel Sparks said.
The product comes in several flavors that experts say is meant to target teenagers, such as mango, green apple and cotton candy.
"At least half of my friends do it,” TJ Bandy, another ninth-grader said.
Experts say the seemingly harmless flavors are packing a punch.
"I don’t care if it just tastes like mango vapor, it’s got the equivalent of a pack of cigarettes of nicotine,” Dr. Linda Hancock said.
Hancock led a presentation to parents Monday, informing them one in five Chesterfield students use e-cigarettes. That’s higher than the national average.
"Many retailers are selling them and not carding,”Hancock said.
The products are making their way to middle schoolers.
“I do have a high schooler as well as a middle schooler," Holly Bandy said. "I wanted to learn more about the dangers of Juuling,” she said.
Hancock’s presentation showed there is no information about the long-term effects of smoking vape products.
“The biggest deal is that it’s very addictive,” Hancock said. “The second biggest deal is nobody has data on what it’s going to do to you in 20 or 30 years.”
Experts say teens who vape are six times more likely to begin smoking later, developing the need to feed the nicotine addiction early.
“If you’re doing it, just get help. It’s not bad. People don’t judge you. I’ve seen it myself,” Sparks said. “People will accept you for who you are. They’ll be understanding and say ‘I can help you’. Just ask.”
Hancock says there’s a misconception that some of these products are just filled with flavored water. She says all of them have some sort of nicotine and some are even finding ways to get marijuana in them.
1-800-QUIT-NOW is a statewide hotline where anyone can get access to help quitting.