Florida teen discusses vaping addiction, struggles to quit
VOLUSIA COUNTY, Fla. - More than one in four teenagers are vaping – that’s according to the FDA, which also says vaping can lead to lung and heart disease, and even prove deadly.
Jaylon Robinson, a 14-year-old who describes himself as a vaping addict, says he estimates 8 out of 10 kids at his school in DeLand use vapes. He says that’s part of why it’s so hard for him to quit, adding that he started vaping when a friend in seventh grade offered him a puff.
"I said no at first," he told FOX 35 News, "but then I turned around and said, ‘Yeah, why not?’"
He says it looked cool, and it tasted good, so he did it again. And again. He bought his own vape a couple of weeks later, and since then he says he rarely went more than ten minutes without thinking about taking a puff.
"I’ve probably bought 50 of them just in the first year that I was doing it," said Robinson.
Eventually, he wanted to quit and realized he couldn’t. He reached out to his mom for help.
Vapes and E-cigarettes were branded at first as something to help people quit traditional tobacco products, but the Department of Health and Human Services says vapes are even more addictive, and as a result, even more damaging. Jaylon’s mother, Courtney, wanted him to talk with FOX 35 News in the hopes that his sharing his story would encourage others to quit too.
"There’s tons of adults who can’t even quit on their own, so how is he going to be able to stop when it’s all right there, and he’s a child?"
Courtney says she’s talked with the principal and vice principal at Jaylon’s school. She reached out to the school board. She’s talked with her son’s teachers. Plus, she feels it’s important to increase awareness and support.
"A lot of people look at these kids like, ‘Oh that’s a bad kid.’ It’s not a bad kid; it’s a kid with a problem, with an addiction. You can’t just assume they’re bad because they’re vaping. A lot of kids are vaping. There’s lots of parents out there that have no idea their kids are vaping and think their kids would never vape – my situation," said Courtney Robinson.
Jaylon says he’s been dealing with withdrawal symptoms since quitting like headaches, stomach aches, and mood swings. His family says he’s irritable. Experts say that’s because nicotine releases dopamine, and re-wires the reward circuitry in the brain. Jim West, President of Total Life Counseling Center, called vaping an epidemic among teens.
"Whenever they don’t smoke or they don’t have nicotine for a day or two, the brain just keeps asking for more. ‘C’mon, what’s the problem? Let’s go, let’s go!’ Nicotine is one of the most challenging drugs to resist," said West.
For Jaylon, quitting has been a tough battle, and one the family has mostly been taking on solo. But there are resources out there.
The Truth Initiative has a texting program to help kids ditch their vapes. Tobacco Free Florida offers teens one-on-one coaches and interactive content to teach them how to quit. The Department of Health and Human Services has an entire platform to help teens understand what they’re experiencing, plus how to overcome cravings, how to handle withdrawal symptoms, and more.
"It’s hard to quit, but in the end, it definitely will be worth it," said Jaylon.
Experts told FOX 35 that a big part of quitting is being mindful of your body and your triggers. It’s important to avoid being around other people while they vape and to avoid stressors that could push you to fall back on bad habits.
FOX 35 News reached out repeatedly to the Volusia County School District and was repeatedly told someone would contact us about this story, but no one ever did before the publication of this article.