(Valley News Live) - As Children's Minnesota confirms four cases of severe lung injury in teens, the state department of health warns of its link to vaping. With students gearing up to head back to school, here are some ways you can tell if your child is vaping—and what to do about it.
Jason McCoy is Tobacco Prevention Coordinator for Clay, Wilkin, Otter Tail and Becker counties public health departments. He says he's gotten about 200 percent more calls from parents about vaping in the last year.
"It's something there's a lot of concern about,” he said.
Now with four teens facing severe lung injury right in Minnesota, McCoy says his own fears are being realized.
"This is the first time that we've found teens presented with what it looks to be long- term lung damage from vaping,” he said. “The sad thing is, they haven't been vaping for that long. This came on pretty quickly."
But it's not just on the Minnesota side. Melissa Markegard serves as Tobacco Prevention Coordinator for Fargo Cass Public Health.
"We're seeing the exact same thing that everybody else is seeing across the nation," she said.
When Valley News Live visited both public health workers, they displayed numerous disguisable vaping devices.
"This is a vaping device,” Markegard said. “This is not."
“Inside them you can unzip the hood and...you can add your vape to this device,” McCoy demonstrated. “Zip up the hood, no one can see it...and then the drawstrings...they're actually straws that you can vape through."
…To USB lookalikes...it may be hard to detect your kid's habit. But experts say it's not impossible.
"Signs of nicotine use are what you want to look for,” McCoy said. “Reddening of the eyes."
McCoy says you can even ask your kid’s dentist to look for signs.
"The base liquid in your vape actually can cause inflammation of the gums which can cause them to recede away from the teeth,” he said. “It can cause actual rotting of the teeth."
And even though the smell can be fruity like perfume…
"It's a slightly more chemical smell,” McCoy said.
…or minty like gum:
"I think if you feel like you're smelling something that's not supposed to be there, dig a little deeper," Markegard said.
Experts advise parents to ask a lot of questions—and be on the lookout.
Markegard says any strange chargers and cords that don’t fit your child’s phone are a good clue. She adds fanny packs are making a comeback, in part for kids to hide vaping devices in.
We're told just one pod of JUUL has as much nicotine as one to two packs of cigarettes—so other things to look out for would be mood swings, anxiety, nausea, headaches and signs of fidgeting—as signs of withdrawal will be very strong.