E-cigarettes and vaping devices are more popular than tobacco cigarettes with teens. Did you know that the first e-cigarette was patented in the 1960s? But the device didn’t take off until the early 2000s and since its resurrection, it has continued to grow in popularity. These electronic smoking devices have surpassed traditional tobacco products and are now the most commonly used nicotine product among teens.
How popular are electronic smoking devices? Well, according to a 2016 US Surgeon General's Report e-cigarette use by high school students has increased by 900 percent. In the 2016 National Youth Tobacco Survey, 1.7 million high school students and 500,000 middle school students reported using e-cigarettes in the past 30 days. And in 2016, 11 percent of high school and 4 percent of middle school students were current users of e-cigarettes, according to the CDC.
Many teens falsely believe that vaping is safer than smoking tobacco. But is it?
5 Vaping Health Risks
1. Mouth problems. According to research published in the journal of Clinical Pediatrics, vaping can lead to mouth and throat irritation including dry mouth. Additionally, the vapors inhaled by an e-device can inflame the mouth cells, creating the potential for gum disease.
2. Addiction. A study out of the University of Southern California followed two groups of 300 high school juniors and seniors over a period of 16 months. One group smoked e-cigarettes and the other one did not. They discovered approximately 40% of teens who vaped started smoking tobacco cigarettes, compared to 10% of the youth who did not smoke at all. So, it appears these devices can lead to an unhealthy habit and addiction.
3. Potential drug experimentation. While vaping can provide a nicotine fix, it’s also opening the door for teen drug experimentation. In a study published in the medical journal Pediatrics, researchers discovered teens may use e-cigarettes to consume hashish oil, marijuana, wax, and other cannabis products. In this study, approximately 3,800 high school students were asked about their drug and e-cigarette use and findings revealed youth used e-cigarettes to vaporize cannabis at a rate that was 27 times higher than the adult rate!
4. Lung damage. Vaping is harmful to the airways. A study from Harvard University uncovered the presence of dangerous, lung-destroying chemicals (i.e., diacetyl, 2, 3-pentanedione, and acetoin in a sample of 51 products) in electronic cigarettes and other vaping devices. To add to these findings, a study out of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill revealed smoking e-cigarettes can trigger immune responses in the lung that can contribute to inflammatory lung diseases.
5. Impaired brain development. The brain is the last organ in the body to develop. In fact, it isn’t fully developed until the mid-twenties. According to the Surgeon General, nicotine can pose a risk to that fragile development by disrupting the growth of brain circuits that are responsible for attention, impulse control, learning, and addiction.
6 Things Parents Should Know about Electronic Smoking Devices and Vaping
1. They are inexpensive and easy to buy. Even though the legal age for buying an e-cigarette is 18, that doesn’t stop teens from finding a way to get one. Regarding money, the cost of smoking an e-cigarette is cheaper than buying packs of cigarettes. According to Time, a pack-a-day smoker can save around $1,200 per year by vaping. So, for a teen who is already strapped for cash, vaping is an appealing alternative to traditional smoking.
2. They come in a variety of tempting flavors (such as tutti fruity, mint, cotton candy, Bavarian cream, and coffee). These enticing flavors are appealing to young populations. No matter how innocent these flavors sound, research on some e-cigarette products found the vapor to contain known carcinogens and toxic chemicals, as well as potentially toxic metal nanoparticles from the vaporizing mechanism.
3. They are concealable. Unlike tobacco cigarettes, there is no need for an ashtray or lighter, so they’re super easy to conceal. These battery-operated devices come in a variety of shapes, and sizes. Some resemble a ballpoint pen or USB drive, like the popular Juul device, so they are easy to slip past parents and school officials.
4. They contain odorless substances. Puffing on an e-cigarette or vaporizer doesn’t give off the stench of tobacco. So, parents, school officials, and law enforcement can’t rely on their noses to detect what is being vaped.
5. They don’t always produce a cloud. The cloud can be a dead giveaway for vaping. But teens can learn to take ghost hits making it next to impossible to detect whether they’re vaping. A ghost hit is inhaling the vapor into the device and holding it in until it dissipates.
6. They are all over the Internet. The Internet offers a wealth of information on the most popular vaping devices, the most flavorful vape juice, and the best vape and smoke tricks, such as dragon and French inhale. Also, teens can learn about the popular vaping method called dripping. Dripping is dropping the e-cig liquid onto the hot coils of the device to create a thicker and more flavorful smoking experience.
As the popularity of these devices continues to increase with teens, there is a need for more information about the use of these products. From increasing the chances of smoking cigarettes to getting high, the findings support the fact that electronic smoking devices are not safe.
Allen, J. G., Flanigan, S. S., LeBlanc, M., Vallarino, J., MacNaughton, P., Stewart, J. H., & Christiani, D. C. (2016). Flavoring chemicals in e-cigarettes: diacetyl, 2, 3-pentanedione, and acetoin in a sample of 51 products, including fruit-, candy-, and cocktail-flavored e-cigarettes. Environmental Health Perspectives (Online), 124(6), 733.
Huang, L. L., Baker, H. M., Meernik, C., Ranney, L. M., Richardson, A., & Goldstein, A. O. (2016). Impact of non-menthol flavours in tobacco products on perceptions and use among youth, young adults and adults: a systematic review. Tobacco control, tobaccocontrol-2016.
Jamal A, Gentzke A, Hu SS, et al. Tobacco use among middle and high school students — United States, 2011–2016. MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep. 2017; 66:597-603.
Jensen, R. P., Luo, W., Pankow, J. F., Strongin, R. M., & Peyton, D. H. (2015). Hidden formaldehyde in e-cigarette aerosols. New England Journal of Medicine, 372(4), 392-394.
Morean, M. E., Kong, G., Camenga, D. R., Cavallo, D. A., & Krishnan-Sarin, S. (2015). High school students’ use of electronic cigarettes to vaporize cannabis. Pediatrics, 136(4), 611-616.
Sundar, I. K., Javed, F., Romanos, G. E., & Rahman, I. (2016). E-cigarettes and flavorings induce inflammatory and pro-senescence responses in oral epithelial cells and periodontal fibroblasts. Oncotarget, 7(47), 77196.