An inventive second-year resident in Minnesota took to the popular social media app TikTok last month to talk to teens and tweens about the dangers of vaping. Twenty-nine-year-old University of Minnesota Medical School resident, Dr. Rose Marie Leslie, goes by the handle @DrLeslie and offers snippets of medical advice mixed in the usual TikTok music video antics. In the TikTok she posted last month that garnered her so much attention, she discussed the ever-growing vaping epidemic — something her mainly teen viewers are dealing with on a daily basis.
While the method may seem unusual for a pediatrician to take, the unprecedented amount of injuries and deaths resulting from the use of nicotine and THC vaping products are leaving medical professionals and parents believing that desperate times call for desperate measures. As it turns out, TikTok may be just the way to reach the generation currently at ground zero of the vaping epidemic.
One of the Dr. Rose Marie Leslie TikTok videos.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) there have been 805 reported cases of vaping related lung injuries in the United States, including 12 deaths. This number continues to climb as doctors and experts struggle to find out what’s causing the crisis.
While the CDC suspects the ingredient tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) is playing a major role in the outbreak, there is not enough information at this time for them to determine what is at the root of the problem. The CDC recommends that everyone stop using e-cigarettes and vaping products until the cause of the issue has been resolved.
What Parents Can Do
Experts are begging parents and caregivers to talk to their kids about the dangers of vaping. Originally, vaping products and e-cigarettes were touted as a safe alternative to traditional cigarettes, but now many believe that’s no longer the case. The rise in accessibility of off-market and homemade products and liquids also creates an environment where teens are accessing materials that haven’t been regulated or tested for use. While vaping products may not inherently be bad, medical professionals are asking everyone to avoid them until the cause of the lung disease is known.
Talk to your Teens, Even if You Don’t Think They’re Vaping
Leslie explained in her interview last month with RollingStone that she saw a hole in the education teens were receiving, so she thought she could use the app to fill it.
“There seem to be a lot of people who want health information and they’re not getting it at home, so I saw [TikTok] as an opportunity to provide that,” she said. Her educational videos don’t just stop at vaping, she also talks about everything from IUD’s to Q-Tips, illustrating that maybe more parents, educators and medical professionals should try turning to the app to reach teens.