The growing concern about e-cigarette use among teens and young adults has now translated into bans and additional laws in states throughout the country. However, the more significant and long-term issue of nicotine addiction is apparently not being addressed. While nicotine addiction grows among youth and teens, a new study released in JAMA Pediatrics shows medical professionals aren’t utilizing proven tools to help kids quit smoking.
The Medicaid data that was analyzed shows out of 80,000 adolescents and young adults diagnosed with nicotine use disorder, only about 4% received counseling and a mere 1% were prescribed medications to help them quit.
Approximately one out of 1,000 young people suffering from nicotine addiction received both counseling and medication, the course of action that gives them the best chance of quitting smoking permanently.
What would prevent doctors from offering these treatments to their young patients? Dr. Nicholas Chadi, lead author of the (Journal of the American Medical Association) JAMA Pediatrics study tells Parentology, “I think it’s probably a combination of factors. Pediatric providers aren’t typically trained to treat youth with nicotine addiction.”
Chadi continues, “Several of my pediatrician colleagues tell me they’ve never prescribed a nicotine gum or patch and aren’t sure if it’s “their job” to do so.”
There may also be concern about using some of the medications, which are generally targeted for adults, on youth and teens. Chadi assures they’re safe. “Physicians may be worried about side effects with nicotine replacement or other medications used to treat nicotine addiction. We know these medications can be used safely with youth as part of an effective smoking or vaping cessation strategy.”
As Parentology reported earlier this year, e-cigarettes contain more nicotine than traditional cigarettes. Nicotine affects the brain and the body and can increase the likelihood of addiction, especially in young children.
Because e-cigarettes often don’t have a strong odor, it can be difficult to detect if your child is struggling with nicotine. “Some things that parents may notice are behavior changes in their child,” Chadi says. “For example, teens spending more time away from home or having less interest in schoolwork or extra-curricular activities, if your child has a severe problem, they will most likely tell on themselves.”
He cautions, “When nicotine addiction becomes severe, children will likely be using nicotine several times a day and may have a hard time getting through their day without taking smoking or vaping breaks.”
The good news, if you suspect your child has an issue there are many tools proven to help. Chadi recommends starting with guidance from a health professional. ” A physician, nurse practitioner/school nurse should be able to offer counseling and other resources to help teens quit. There are also excellent online resources and youth-focused quitlines that parents and teens can refer to.”
Although some physicians may be reluctant to treat kids for nicotine addiction, parents can advocate on behalf of their child.
Doctors Not Utilizing Tools to Help Teens Quit Nicotine: Sources
Boston Children’s Hospital
Dr. Nicholas Chadi, Pediatrician and Clinician-Scientist Specialized in Adolescent and Addiction Medicine, Sainte-Justine University Hospital Centre