Tobacco use may be at a historic low, but vaping has ushered in a new generation of youth smokers. According to a 2019 National Youth Tobacco Study (NYTS), over five million middle and high school students now use e-cigarettes.
One of the chief concerns surrounding e-cigarettes is that most contain nicotine, an extremely addictive substance. Even more concerning is the fact that young people who never smoked cigarettes previously are now becoming hooked on nicotine. Several studies have revealed that long-term vape users are exposed to as much nicotine as those who smoke regular cigarettes.
What Is An E-Cigarette?
An e-cigarette, also known as a vape/vape pen, is a battery-operated electronic device that heats up liquid and turns it into an aerosol. The aerosol is inhaled into the mouth and lungs of the user in much the same way as a regular cigarette.
Vaping devices come in a number of different styles, but most operate similarly and are made up of the same type of components. The part which contains the e-liquid is known as a vape pod.
What’s Inside Vape Pods?
The aerosol, popularly known as vape juice or e-liquid, that users inhale contains a number of harmful and potentially toxic substances, including:
Diacetyl (a flavoring agent)
Volatile organic compounds
Nickel, tin, lead, and other heavy metals
What Are The Risks of Vaping?
Nicotine Can Negatively Affect Brain Development
The majority of e-cigarettes contain nicotine, which is both highly addictive and potentially harmful to areas of the brain responsible for memory, attention, impulse control, and learning. The brain continues to develop until around the age of 25, making nicotine use by those under 25 especially dangerous. Nicotine is also potentially fatal to developing fetuses.
Risk of Injury From Explosion Or Poisoning
Injuries have resulted from defective e-cigarette batteries catching on fire or exploding. The majority of the explosions occurred when the e-cigarette batteries were being charged. Additionally, e-liquid can be poisonous when ingested or absorbed through the skin or eyes.
Increased Risk of Lung Disease
According to a research study conducted over the course of three years, the risk of being diagnosed with chronic bronchitis, emphysema, asthma, or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is highest among tobacco and e-cigarette users. More specifically, e-cigarettes-users increased their risk of lung disease by about 30 percent compared with those who did not use e-cigarettes.
Vaping Marijuana Can Lead To Extreme Highs And EVALI
Due to a higher percentage of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) in vape pens, vaporized cannabis tends to produce much stronger highs. Studies have shown that vaping cannabis produces significantly higher concentrations of THC in the blood, leading to much greater cognitive and motor impairment.
E-cigarette or vaping product use-associated lung injury (EVALI) is perhaps the most dangerous potential outcome of vaping. EVALI is an inflammatory response in the lungs that can lead to coughing, shortness of breath, chest pain, nausea or vomiting. In the most severe cases, EVALI can cause the lungs to stop functioning. Although researchers are still unclear on the exact trigger for EVALI, THC was detected in most of the EVALI case samples tested by the FDA.
What Are Signs That My Child Is Vaping?
Thirstiness. E-cigarette aerosol is hygroscopic, meaning it removes hydration from the mouth and throat. A persistent increase in thirst is tied to frequent vaping.
Cutting back on caffeine. The combination of vaping and caffeine can cause anxiety, leading many users to decrease their caffeine intake.
Shortness of breath. Watch for signs of your teen becoming out of breath or coughing during activities they are normally accustomed to, such as walking up the stairs, doing chores, or playing sports.
Presence of unfamiliar tech components. If you see USB flash drives, charging ports or battery chargers lying around the house, it is possible they are for charging a vaping device.
How Can I Discourage My Child/Teen From Vaping?
In spite of the immense popularity of e-cigarettes, there are a number of ways that parents can encourage their child or teenager to avoid vaping. Here are four helpful strategies:
Set a Good Example By Remaining Tobacco-Free
Simply abstaining from vaping and smoking regular cigarettes can encourage children to remain smoke-free. By minimizing your child or teenager’s exposure to vaping products, you can help create positive associations with a smoke-free household.
Talk Openly And Give Accurate Information
Establishing oneself as a source of credibility can be an effective way to get through to young people about the health repercussions of vaping. Aim to have honest discussions backed by scientifically-backed research.
Avoid Lecturing; Ask Open-Ended Questions
Lecturing can lead your child to tune you out or get angry. Instead, find a comfortable setting and be mindful of your body language. Finger pointing or arm crossing can come across as punitive or closed-minded. Ask questions that prompt detailed answers rather than simply ‘yes’ or ‘no.’ Questions like “what do you enjoy about vaping?” or “what made you want to start?” will help your teen open up.
Emphasize The Financial Dependency Vaping Creates
Teenagers value their freedom and independence. While vaping can seem like an exciting act of rebellion, it’s important to point out that an addiction to nicotine interferes with one’s ability to spend time and money on their own terms. Vaping can quickly become an expensive habit, and nicotine cravings will lead to increased spending.
Parents can work together to help educate young people about the dangers of vaping and nicotine addiction. If you or a loved one want to quit vaping, take a look at the CDC’s Guide For Quitting Smoking. Smoking cessation is a difficult journey that can take multiple attempts before it is successful.
Capital Area Pediatrics is the leading pediatric practice in Northern Virginia, specializing in the care of newborns all the way up through adolescence. If you have concerns about your child’s health with regards to vaping or for any other reason, request an appointment with one of our pediatricians online.