Vaping: More than just flavored water

girl smokingMelissa says she vapes to de-stress. Marcus loves to work on his “Cloud Chasing” skills. Jasmine’s favorite flavors are Cotton Candy and Tutti Frutti. Confused? You’re not alone. As parents, it is hard to stay up-to-date on the latest teen trends and e-cigarettes and vaping are no exception.

As more young people experiment with e-cigarettes, it is important to understand the health risks and educate our kids, so they can make informed choices.

What exactly are e-cigarettes?

E-Cigs, or electronic cigarettes, are devices that emit vaporized nicotine that is inhaled. They were originally developed as a way to help smokers quit, however they are now widely targeted to young people. They come in a variety of styles and shapes, although most look similar to a plastic cigarette or cigar.

e-cigarette diagramHow do they work:

E-Cigs have a battery, an atomizer with a heating coil and an absorbent material that soaks up a liquid called e-juice. The liquid is heated and converts to “vapor” which is breathed into the lungs and

exhaled repeatedly. Although it is called “vapor,” this is inaccurate. When the e-juice is heated, it actually becomes an aerosol, which dramatically increases the health risks.

What’s the appeal?

Many young people try to e-cigs because of the enticing flavors (Cocoa Puffs, Cotton Candy, Tutti Frutti, Cinnamon and more). They smell like candy and do not emit any smoke. Many kids believe they are simply flavored water and therefore not harmful. In reality, the vast majority of e-juice contains an undisclosed amount of nicotine (often times much higher than cigarettes) as well as harmful chemicals such as propelyne glycol (found in antifreeze), acetone and formaldehyde,

Young people also often tamper with the batteries to create huge clouds of vapor. This is called Cloud Chasing and has become very popular, with many teens participating in vaping competitions. This is risky however because the increased power of a larger battery can cause the device to explode and burn the user.

Are they dangerous? (Taken from the 2016 Surgeon General’s Report)

  • E-cigs contain nicotine, which is highly addictive.
    • Besides nicotine, e-cigarettes contain potentially harmful ingredients. The list of chemicals is long.
    • Nicotine exposure during adolescence and young adulthood can cause addiction and harm the developing brain.

    These risks include:

    • Nicotine addiction
    • Mood disorders
    • Permanent lowering of impulse control
    • Nicotine also changes the way synapses are formed, which can harm the parts of the brain that control attention and learning
    • E-cigarette use among youth and young adults is strongly linked to the use of other tobacco products, such as regular cigarettes, cigars, hookah, and smokeless tobacco.
    • Some evidence suggests that e-cigarette use is linked to alcohol use and other substance use, such as marijuana.
    • Non-smoking youth who use e-cigarettes are more likely to try conventional cigarettes in the future.

    Talking to our kids about e-cigarettes:

    Kids need to understand the risks of e-cigs and vaping. Here are some tips to get the conversation started:

    • Timing is everything. Look for opportunities to start the conversation naturally. For example, you might see someone vaping on tv, in a movie or an ad in a magazine that sparks conversation. Ask your child what they know about vaping and go from there.
    • Share the facts. Many young people don’t realize e-cigs contain nicotine or that nicotine effects developing brains differently than adults.
    • Talk about advertising: Usually young people are pretty shocked to learn that Tobacco Companies target them in an attempt to attract new users.

    These two videos do a great job showcasing this fact:

    To watch: Is Nicotine Addictive?

    To watch: Do E-Cigs Target Kids?

    The full extent of the risks from ecigs is still unknown; however, we do know they are dangerous. The bottom line is anything other than air is potentially dangerous to our lungs.

    Educating our kids about ecigs and vaping is the first step in helping them make healthy choices.

    If you would like to read the full report: 2016 Surgeon General’s Report on E-Cigs and Vaping