Have you talked to your children about e-cigarettes?

Just recently I was at a party at a friend’s house when one of the guests pulled out an e-cigarette and started “vaping” while chatting with other guests in the kitchen. I have become so accustomed to living in a smoke-free environment that I was thrown off by this guest’s nonchalant behavior as he puffed away indoors. It was my first real encounter with e-cigs, which produce a nicotine-laced vapor rather than traditional smoke.

If you are not familiar with e-cigs, this article gives some helpful background information. Some of the important points include the fact that the health consequences of e-cigs are largely unknown. While some of the tar and other substances associated with tobacco are not produced by e-cigs, there do seem to be links between the nicotine itself and some cancers.

Another recent article reveals trends more concerning for parents: because e-cigs are classified differently than tobacco products, many of the regulations that exist for tobacco products do not apply to e-cigs, including regulations about advertising. This means that many teens who would not see advertisements for cigarettes are nevertheless exposed to advertising for e-cigs. It is very possible that your teen knows more about the new trend than you do!

If you haven’t already, initiate a conversation with your children about e-cigarettes. Find out what they already know and if any of their friends have tried vaping (using e-cigs). Ask if your child thinks e-cigarettes are as harmful as regular cigarettes and inform your children of their risks. Do you know where e-cigs are sold in your community? Have you seen advertisements for them? Stay informed and make sure your children know that you are aware of the trend. Communicate your expectations to your children about how you want them to handle e-cigs.

By Andrea Nelson Google

Boys Deal With Body Image Issues Too

Most of what we read about body image issues focuses on girls who are trying to be model thin, or are obsessed with showing off their…curves.  But boys are not immune to our culture’s unhealthy focus on appearance.   A new study discussed in an online article by ANI News shows that boys who are of a healthy weight, but think they are too heavy or too thin, are more likely to be depressed.  Those who think they are “very underweight,” are the most depressed.  Boys who do not exhibit the bulging muscles of their peers, or of media celebrities, and experience bullying, are also more likely to use steroids, according to the article.  Giving our boys a healthy sense of self, whether they are muscular and toned, or of a leaner or huskier build, is as important as making sure girls know they don’t have to look like an airbrushed sunken-cheeked model.

Tanning Salons May Lie to Youth About Risks

I’ve never gone to a tanning salon.  As a fair-skinned Swede, I’m genetically prone to skin cancer, and already got too much sun when I was a kid.  But my daughters have frequented tanning salons.  And at least once they were lied to about the risks of tanning beds, because I remember having an argument about it.

Well, it seems they weren’t the only ones lied to, because “when congressional investigators contacted 300 tanning salons, identifying themselves as fair-skinned teenage girls…. Ninety percent of the salons told them indoor tanning posed no health dangers. Seventy-eight percent claimed indoor tanning would actually improve health, preventing diseases ranging from arthritis to lupus.”  The article goes on to say that “Studies show the risk of melanoma goes up 75 percent when tanning bed use begins before the age of 30,” and points out that the rate of melanoma among women has gone up 50% since the 80s, when tanning beds began to proliferate.

Some states are beginning to pass laws restricting the use of tanning beds by minors, and Illinois is currently considering stricter laws, as reported last week.  The new law would ban anyone under 18 from using tanning beds in tanning salons.  Currently, Illinois law bans the use of tanning beds by those under 14, and 14- to 17-year-olds must get the consent, in person, of a parent, before he or she can use a tanning bed.

“Abstinence-centric” Education?

Yesterday I was teaching at a local high school. After the last class period, the health teacher walked up to me and handed me an article from the Chicago Sun Times. “Illinois could set tone for sex ed nationwide”, blared the headline. So, I read. Parents, you should read it here, too.

This article makes me upset for a variety of reasons. The most frustrating paragraph is the following: “In the place of ineffective abstinence-only sex education, we need comprehensive abstinence-centric sex education. What’s the difference? The former only preaches the need to wait. The latter also encourages teens to wait, but additionally teaches them how to negotiate condom use and how to practice safer sex, along with illustrating the realities of STDs and pregnancy. There’s a big difference in scare tactics and education — one is effective, and one isn’t.”

This paragraph makes me think this woman has never seen actually seen an abstinence-until-marriage program executed well. Yes, ATM (Abstinence-til-Marraige) education teaches students the need to wait. But I know of no ATM program that uses “scare tactics” to shock their listeners. Futhermore, although we do not explicitly show students how to use contraceptives, good ATM programs do alert them to the risks of STDs and pregnancy. They also report the failure rate of contraceptives. Consider the following:

1/4 sexually active teens contracts an STD. Condoms do reduce the risk of STDs transmitted by bodily fluid. They do not, however, protect as well against diseases passed by skin to skin contact. The HPV vaccine protects against 4 of the 100 strains of the virus. The yearly rate of pregnancy with perfect condom use is 16+/100 females. Actual use jumps up to closer to 30%. Teenagers who choose to be sexually active often suffer depression, and even suicidal feelings – boys more so than girls.

W4YM gives these statistics in order to encourage the message of waiting. Because we believe it is best, and we believe they can. We know many people who have.

Amd this is perhaps what bothers me most. The question that lingers in my mind is, “What happened to the concept of self control? Why do we insist on believing that, with our help, our teenagers cannot be self-controlled enough to choose abstinence before marriage?” ATM education believes in teens’ ability to control their desires. They believe teens to be smart, empowered, and able. They want to encourage them to healthy living – not just give it lip service. Telling a teenager, “You should wait, but you probably won’t be able to, so do it safely. Here’s a condom,” not only sends them a contradictory message, it undermines their belief in their own strength of character. This is harmful to their psychological growth and development.

Dr. Berman’s idea of sex education in essence says, “No, you can’t. This might protect you. Good luck.” Abstinence-until-marriage education says, “Yes, you can. And I will help you.”

*If you’re curious about the statistics above, check out the Center for Disease Control, Stan Weed’s testimony before the House of Representatives, and the CASA teen survey from 2004.

**If you are curious to find out more about Dr. Berman’s philosophy towards sex, see her website . Please note that her site does not reflect the opinions or beliefs of W4YM.