The Impact of E-Cigarette Use on Our Children

What parents need to know about vaping.

“Vaping,” is commonly used to describe the use of electronic cigarettes. Kids are vaping.

It has gained ominous notoriety in recent months.

According to the CDC, there have been over 2,500 vaping related lung injuries in the past year. Cases have come from all over the United States. Some cases have been so severe that they have required hospitalizations in intensive care units. Sadly, some cases cause death.

What do parents need to know?

What should alarm parents is the use of electronic cigarettes has massive appeal to children in high school and even middle school. The American Lung Association has reported that as many as 5 million adolescents use e-cigarettes. That staggering figure amounts to 20% of our youth.

According to the Surgeon General, more high school students use e-cigarettes than regular cigarettes. Even more surprising, e-cigarette use is more popular among high school students than it is among adults.

Electronic cigarettes have many different names

They are formally known as electronic nicotine delivery systems (ENDS). Other names include e-cigs, e-hookahs, vapes, vape pens, JUULS, personal vaporizers, and mods. The devices usually contain a cartridge, a heating source, a power source, and a mouthpiece. The cartridge typically has a reservoir that holds a liquid that contains nicotine, flavorings, and other chemicals. The act of puffing triggers the battery-powered heating device. This vaporizes the “e-liquid” or “e-juice” allowing the user to inhale the aerosol.

Photo by Judeus Samson on Unsplash

Is nicotine dangerous?

The contents of the inhaled aerosol contributes directly to the dangers of vaping. The most obvious ingredient is nicotine. The perception by a large number of e-cigarette users — young and old — is that vaped nicotine is somehow less dangerous than nicotine inhaled by traditionally smoked tobacco.

This is false.

Nicotine is highly addictive and harmful, no matter its delivery system. The effect of nicotine is particularly dangerous to the developing brains of children and young adults. The brain development continues until 25 years of age.

What else are they inhaling?

There are other alarming chemicals found in e-cigarettes detrimental to one’s health. Propylene glycol is a chemical commonly used to make paint solvent. Ethylene glycol and diethylene glycol are chemical compounds used to make antifreeze and linked to lung disease.

Nitrosamines, acetaldehyde, and formaldehyde are known carcinogens. Acrolein is an herbicide used in weed killers that can cause irreversible lung damage. Cadmium, nickel, tin, and lead are other heavy metals that are commonly found in these e-cigarette reservoirs.

Inhaling these ingredients is of grave concern. Unfortunately, the Food and Drug Administration regulation is lacking, allowing these products to be misused.

How easily can a teen buy E-cigarettes?

E-cigarette devices can be purchased online in just one click. Vaping products are available in shops in your neighborhood. Physical stores are required to check ID. Buyers must be 18 years of age to make these purchases. Kids know which stores do not follow the ID check policy. Online vendors are not held to that standard, however.

The appeal of e-cigarettes to our youth is concerning

Vaping devices are openly marketed to teens and young adults. Advertisements for electronic cigarettes appear in television programs and movies geared toward adolescents. Ads on the internet, social media, and printed magazines.

The various flavors resemble common candy flavors marketed to children: chocolate, bubble gum, and peppermint. The more sophisticated teen gravitates to piña colada, java jolt, or peach schnapps. Some research suggests the light-hearted nomenclature allows teenagers to forget they are inhaling nicotine. They may not be aware of the presence of the other ingredients as manufacturers are not required to list the contents of e-cigarettes. Few regulations govern.

Mods are easy to hide

Photo by Fallon Michael on Unsplash

These devices are also easy to conceal from parents and teachers. Unlike traditional cigarettes, there is no lingering scent or trace of smoke. The devices are difficult to police as they can resemble flash drives, pens, car key fobs, and even medical inhalers.

Long term risks

The vaping industry is nascent. The long term risks are inconclusive. However, the acute risks of these devices are transparent. Nicotine delivery systems — electronic or traditional — have no place among our youth.

The American Academy of Pediatrics cites that second hand “vapor,” like second-hand smoke, is harmful to growing lungs. The addictive properties of these products impact developing brains. Teenage e-cigarette users have a higher risk of engaging in traditional cigarette use as well as marijuana and alcohol use.

According to the CDC, nicotine is toxic to developing fetuses and is harmful to pregnant women.

Devices can explode

Photo by Jeff Kingma on Unsplash

Vape devices are poorly regulated. Defective devices have exploded, resulting in harmful burns and house fires.

Vaping is a clear and present danger for our children

The dark cloud of “vaping” is a clear, present, and avoidable danger to our youth. As parents and healthcare providers, we have to push back on their use. We must have honest conversations with our children. It is important to educate them on how easy it is to become hooked on tobacco, no matter the form. It is crucial to inform them about what we know is actually in those unregulated mint “vapes” and chocolate JUULS. We must also discuss the potential for lacing with illegal and illicit drugs like marijuana.

Second-hand vape carries the same risks as second-hand smoking. We implore our parents and other household members to not indulge around our children.

Thank you to BeingWell for publishing this article on Medium.

Blog Photo By: Nery Zarate on Unsplash

Blog Author: Dr. Agboola O. Fatiregun