Many middle and high schoolers believe that vaping (the use of e-cigarettes) is less harmful then smoking traditional cigarettes because they get the high from the nicotine, but not the tar and other carcinogens.
This is true to a degree, but for young people there is substantial evidence that e-cigarette use can be highly addictive and dangerous to their health.
A Sudden Rise in Popularity
The FDA has acknowledged that it was caught flat-footed by a tidal wave of teenage vaping. According to the 2018 National Youth Tobacco Survey, the number of middle and high school students who currently vape has soared to about 3.6 million.
The U.S. Surgeon General reported the use of e-cigarettes surged 900 percent among high school students from 2011 to 2015. In 2016 more than 3 million middle and high school students said they had used e-cigarettes in the past month.
E-cigarettes are sold in more than 7,760 flavors, including apple pie, cotton candy, gummy bear, and watermelon—flavors known to lure younger users. Once those younger users get hooked on nicotine, there’s a good chance they’ll be in for a lifelong habit.
Are e-cigarettes actually dangerous? While many young people (and adults) see little harm in vaping, the answer is yes.
Exposure to nicotine varies a lot, depending on the e-cigarette device and the e-liquid it uses, as well as the individual vaper’s practices. But there is substantial evidence that nicotine intake from e-cigarettes, used by experienced adults, can be comparable to that of conventional cigarettes.
The vapor e-cigarettes produce come from heating up liquid “e-juice,” which is added to the devices via refillable cartridges. In addition to nicotine, the liquids used for e-cigarettes also contain cancer-causing toxic chemicals, heavy metals and ultrafine particles that pose additional health risks.
Nicotine’s Effect on Teenagers
Beyond the risk toxic chemicals may pose, numerous studies have also shown the harm of nicotine itself to teenagers. A JUUL cartridge (the most popular brand of e-cigarette) has approximately the same amount of nicotine as an entire pack of cigarettes. Nicotine can disrupt brain development, contribute to future cardiovascular disease and increase the risk of a teen trying alcohol or other drugs.
Nicotine itself is also a highly addictive drug. This explains why a significant proportion of teens, who have never smoked a cigarette, end up smoking traditional cigarettes after using e-cigarettes.
Conclusive evidence exists that drinking or injecting e-liquids can be fatal; that exposure to the skin or eyes can cause seizures and other serious problems; and that e-cigarette devices can explode and cause burns and other injuries.
What Steps Can Parents Take
Talk to your children early about the serious risks and consequences of using any product with nicotine. When they hear that vaping is O.K., that it’s not as bad as traditional cigarettes, they need to understand that vaping now can lead to an addiction to nicotine and long term health consequences. For suggestions on what to discuss go to Vaping’s Impact on Teens.
For parents concerned that their children may be using e-cigarettes, Blackbird Clinical Services can test for nicotine. Please give us a call at 765-447-8700, or send me an email at KHathaway@blackbirdclinicalsvs.com and we’ll be happy to discuss your options.