Is Vaping that Bad?
The short answer is yes. Here is the longer answer:
What is vaping? Vaping is the act of inhaling vapor produced by an electronic cigarette (or e-cigarette) or vaporizer. The vapor is usually produced from a liquid in a cartridge, called e-juice or e-liquid. The liquids have names and flavorings that make them sound like candy—like mint chocolate and frozen lime drop—which makes them very appealing and sound “safe” to young people. The problem is that these liquids also contain many harmful chemicals, some of which cause cancer, and most of them contain nicotine, a highly addictive substance.
Are teens vaping? Vaping has become popular among today’s youth. The 2015 National Youth Tobacco Survey found that 16 percent of high school kids vape. In fact, there was a 900% increase in vaping among high school students between 2011-2015. That means vaping has surpassed cigarette use in teenagers. Teens like using e-cigarettes because they love the flavoring, it’s easy to perform “tricks” with the vapor, and they believe that vaping is a “healthy” form of smoking. In fact, when polled, many teens are not aware they are using nicotine because of the sweet flavors.
Is vaping legal? In all 50 states, e-cigarettes are not allowed to be purchased by anyone under the age of 18. Despite the laws, minors have found ways to get their hands on e-cigarettes, usually purchasing them online.
Is vaping better than traditional cigarettes? Vaping proponents have argued that vaping is a step down from smoking, eliminating the tar and carbon monoxide that is prevalent in traditional cigarettes, and that e-cigarettes can eventually help smokers quit their habit. While it is possible that e-cigarettes could help a nicotine-addicted adult step down their habit, e-cigarettes lead others – young people unexposed to nicotine – to become newly addicted users. In fact, most experts believe that vaping is a gateway for teens and young adults to start using other addictive substances. The American Academy of Pediatrics warns, “e-cigarettes are threatening to addict a new generation to nicotine.” In addition to being highly addictive, nicotine is more harmful to adolescents because it can harm a teenager’s developing brain. Even e-cigarettes that do not contain nicotine still have other harmful ingredients, including chemicals linked to lung disease and heavy metals such as lead. Since e-cigarettes are relatively new, the long-term health effects of users and bystanders are not completely clear, but health officials all agree that vaping is not safe.
What are the signs that someone is vaping? It can be difficult to tell if your teen is vaping, because the vapor dissipates quickly and leaves no residue, but there are a few signs to pay attention for:
- Increased thirst. Vaping removes hydration from the mouth and throat, leaving users with a dry palate. Notice if your teen heavily increases their liquid consumption.
- Nosebleeds. Just like vaping dries the mouth, it dries the skin of the nose as well. When the nose gets dry, it can bleed.
- Reduced caffeine intake. Some e-cig users suddenly find themselves developing sensitivity to caffeine. So, if your teen used to enjoy Starbucks and Red Bull, but is now suddenly passing on their favorite caffeinated drinks, this could be a red flag.
- Pneumonia. Research shows that there are nanoparticles present in e-cig vapor that cause inflammation in the lungs. When lungs get inflamed, it can lead to pockets of bacterial infection and cause pneumonia.
- Sweet smells. E-cigarettes don’t put off the same odor as a traditional cigarette. They may smell like a variety of sweet flavors, like bubble gum or fruit.
- Online purchases. Be aware of your teen’s online activity. If packages come to your home addressed to your teen, pay attention to what your teen is buying.
- Finding unfamiliar tools. If you come across an unusual looking pen or USB drive, often with holes on each end, chances are it’s a vaping device and not a typical pen or USB drive. In addition, e-cigarettes have parts and cartridges that need to be exchanged and replaced. Look for spare wires, thin metallic coils, cotton balls or small containers (“pods”) that used to contain e-juice
How do I prevent my teen from vaping?
The number one thing parents can do to prevent their teens from vaping is talk to them about it. Strike up a conversation when you see someone vaping or when you pass an e-cigarette shop. Get the conversation rolling by asking an open-ended question like, “Do kids at your school smoke e-cigarettes?” The key things to tell your teen is that, although most teens think e-cigarettes are harmless, vaping is another device that can lead to addiction and mess up their brain and respiratory health. If your teen doesn’t seem to believe you, suggest that you research together online. Visit the CDC’s website to provide your teen with scientific evidence of the harm of vaping. In addition, with every conversation you have about substance abuse, you should talk to your teen about strategies to resist peer pressure. “Just say no” does not work in the real world of adolescence. If you would like suggestions, please read our previous blog, Helping Teens Be Prepared to Say No.