DAVE & DUJANOVIC

Opinion: My daughter’s vape addiction has become her mission

Nov 19, 2019, 11:53 AM | Updated: 2:18 pm

This is an editorial piece. An editorial, like a news article, is based on fact, but also shares opinions. The opinions expressed here are solely those of the author, and are not associated with our news room.

As a mom of three adult children, I plead guilty. For too many years, I lived with the improbable image ingrained in my mind: I must be, I thought, the only mom on Earth who’d birthed three perfect humans.

Reality hit me many years ago.

I stayed home from my job at KSL-TV one day to clean house and discovered piles of unfinished homework wadded up in the back of my oldest daughter’s closet. A fifth-grader, she simply hadn’t turned it in.

Nothing could have stopped me as I drove, wadded homework in tow, to her school and confronted her in the hallway for an on-the-spot explanation. At that moment, her 10-year-old eyes told me the story.

Unfortunately, it took me 24 hours after that embarrassing mommy meltdown to realize she didn’t need me to humiliate her. She needed my love, my support, my help. My epiphany would come into play more than a decade later. That’s when I found out about another child’s vape addiction.

My youngest child’s secret vape addiction

vape addiction katie bertram

Debbie and her daughter, Katie, who now speaks to parents and teens about the dangers of vaping.

Fast-forward to 2019. My youngest child, 19-year old Katie, approached me one night to tell me she’d been secretly vaping, nonstop in my home.

Let that sink in.

Nonstop.

In my home.

I had no clue.

Katie admitted to becoming so addicted she couldn’t go without it, not even for an hour. Despite her athleticism, her academic excellence, and in contrast to my very public anti-vaping voice on KSL NewsRadio, my own daughter secretly sucked mint-flavored vape juice into her lungs for hours a day.

As my home filled with a minty aroma, I probably thought she’d bought stock in breath mints. I certainly never suspected vapes.

vape addiction

Katie, pitching at a softball game.

I can’t remember if I wanted to freak out the moment she confessed, but Katie tells groups she now so eloquently delivers her anti-vape message to, that our most loving mother-daughter moment came when I didn’t freak out.

“You just said, ‘Katie, we all do things we’re not proud of. We all do things we know aren’t right. And now, you’ve got to stop,'” she reminds me.

She told that as well to an audience of high school parents. I quietly wept as the words poured from her mouth from behind the podium.

Katie went on to tell them how she stopped. She beat her vape addiction on her own. That if I had freaked out, she’d probably still be vaping today, just to defy me.

Katie’s voice

Katie has spoken out publicly four times since this summer about her vape addiction and she doesn’t hold back.

She first spoke openly on my radio show, Dave & Dujanovic. Then, she was invited to speak to an audience of health officials, and now schools call to ask her to speak to students. Recently, my longtime colleague, KSL-TV anchor and investigative reporter Mike Headrick, interviewed her for a report that aired on KSL 5.

She speaks from her heart. She speaks her truth. She tells audiences how horrible it is and that she is utterly relieved to have quit.

These are HER words. 

Would you stand over a burning campfire and inhale all the smoke for hours and hours? No. So why in the world would you vape?

She talks about how she first “got scared” when she struggled to breathe while hiking and skiing — two activities she loves.

Physically fit, Katie grew up skiing and playing sports. As a student of biology, she also appreciates her lungs. All great reasons to quit.

As her lungs seemed to struggle, Katie did what we all tend to do: she diagnosed herself via Google. She speaks about how pro-vape websites told her what she wanted to hear, “that all vapers struggle with breathing”. But legitimate health sites told her “what she needed to hear” —  that doctors just don’t know the long-term risks and health effects.

I’m not biased when I say my daughter is smart. Her grades and her drive prove she is intelligent. She also closely monitors the news. So her brains and her gut told her that the growing tally of Americans getting sick and dying from vaping was just the beginning. She wasn’t willing to roll the dice with her own life.

What happens next?

People who hear her speak ask if Katie quit because of the money it costs. She was spending about $100 a month. I get the impression it was never about the $100; it was about the deception she got caught up in. She’d ask me for “gas money” because she was secretly spending her gas money on vape supplies.

“I didn’t want to keep lying to my mom,” she says.

Katie vaped for 8 months. Many of her friends still vape. She says it’s tough to have this conversation with friends who haven’t had the revelation she’s gone through. But she’ll keep telling her story, hoping it empowers others to toss their vape devices, as she did, in a trash can far from home. To drive away, and never look back.

I don’t know the extent of Katie’s lung damage, or if there is any. We’ve talked about getting her lungs x-rayed to find out. Will we do that? I don’t know yet.

But during the last big snowstorm, Katie and her boyfriend Hank hiked up a ski run at Alta to enjoy the fresh Utah powder. The resort wasn’t open yet, but Katie saw it as a chance to test her lungs.

She returned home with a smile on her face and took a deep breath in front of me.

“It was exhilarating, Mom.”

Dave & Dujanovic can be heard weekdays from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. on KSL NewsRadio. Users can find the show on the KSL NewsRadio website and app, as well as Apple Podcasts and Google Play.

Listen on Google Play Music

Today’s Top Stories

Dave & Dujanovic

salt lake mayorMendenhall guns...
Curt Gresseth

After NY law is struck down, two Utah experts sound off on gun rights

Two advocates on either side of the gun-control vs. gun rights debate sound off on the Supreme Court's 6-3 ruling to expand the right to carry a firearm in public.
4 days ago
Salt Lake County Search and Rescue safely rescued a hiker  out of the Lisa Falls trail on Friday.
P...
Curt Gresseth

Search and rescue expert has tips for hikers

Before you head out on your hike, take someone with you, tell somebody where you are going and when you plan to return. Those are just a few words for hikers from an expert on search and rescue.
5 days ago
A fire engine is seen as the Sheep fire burns in Wrightwood, Calif., Monday, June 13, 2022. (AP Pho...
Curt Gresseth

Be Ready Utah: What to do when wildfires close in on your home

Will you be ready if wildfires close in on your home? A survivor of a wildfire shares his experience and an expert shares tips and advice.
6 days ago
(Photo Credit: CNN/Shutterstock)...
Curt Gresseth

What is behind rising credit-card debt? Financial expert weighs in.

A national expert explains the sudden rise in credit-card debt in April and what you can do to lower your monthly payments.
12 days ago
first time millennial homebuyer Utah...
Curt Gresseth

Housing market in Utah looking better for first-time home buyers, says real-estate agent.

Is the American Dream once again reachable for younger adults as the housing market in Utah slows? A real estate agent discusses the cooling housing market and what that means for first-time home buyers.
12 days ago
FILE - This Aug. 10, 2016, file photo, Evan McMullin speaks during an interview in Salt Lake City. ...
Curt Gresseth

If it’s Lee vs. McMullin, it won’t be a traditional Utah race, says political insider

An expert in Utah politics predicts Sen. Mike Lee will win the primary and will face independent Evan McMullin in the general election.
17 days ago

Sponsored Articles

Tax Harassment...
Jordan Wilcox

The best strategies for dealing with IRS tax harassment | You have options!

Learn how to deal with IRS tax harassment. This guide will teach you how to stop IRS phone calls and letters, and how to handle an IRS audit.
spend a day at Bear Lake...
Bear Lake Convention and Visitors Bureau

You’ll love spending the day at Bear Lake | How to spend a day at Bear Lake

Bear Lake is a place that needs to be experienced. Spend a day at Bear Lake.
Curb Appeal...
Price's Guaranteed Doors

How to have the best of both worlds for your house | Home security and curb appeal

Protect your home and improve its curb appeal with the latest security solutions like beautiful garage doors and increased security systems.
Prescription opioids can be disposed of during National Prescription Take Back Day...
Know Your Script

Prescription opioid misuse | How to protect your family from the opioid epidemic

Studies have shown that prescription opioid misuse has increased since COVID-19. So what do you need to know about these opioids?
Follow @ikeyospe...

Tax Tuesday: The Most Common Mistakes People Make When Filing Their Taxes

Fortunately, for most average earners, they will not end up owing overpayments received for the Child Tax Credit in 2021.
Follow @ikeyospe...

Tax Tuesday: How will last year’s child tax credits affect you?

Fortunately, for most average earners, they will not end up owing overpayments received for the Child Tax Credit in 2021.
Opinion: My daughter’s vape addiction has become her mission