You’ve probably noticed the new trend in vaping or e-cigarettes. I can remember the first time I saw a cloud of vapor rise in the stands at a football game. At first, I thought someone had lost it and decided to smoke a cigarette right then and there, rather than going to the designated smoking area. After commenting on this quietly with the group that I was sitting with, someone explained that it wasn’t cigarettes but a vape. They said it was much healthier than cigarettes and was a good way to help cigarette smokers quit. That’s a good thing I thought, but I wasn’t sure if it was safe for me and others around the vape smoke. I’ve recently began to wonder about the number of young people I’ve seen walking around vaping, and I really hadn’t remembered seeing that many young people even smoking cigarettes before.
In September, the Food and Drug Administration has called e-cigarette use among teens an epidemic (Fox, 2018). Within a 30 day period this past spring, “more than 2 million middle school and high school students in the United States” used e-cigarettes (Reese, 2018). E-cigarettes aim “to provide a similar sensation to inhaling tobacco smoke, without the smoke” (Biggers, 2018). These devices are easy to hide and can “look just like a traditional cigarette or cigar, but they can also look like other common items such as a pen, flash drive or a key fob” (Reese). Teens are also using vaping devices for vapor flavored liquids, nicotine, and marijuana. Some immediate questions come to mind.
How do I know if someone is smoking vapor flavored liquids, nicotine, or marijuana?
The Partnership for Drug-Free Kids (2018) state that it is hard to determine what substance your child is vaping because there is no lasting smoke and there is little odor. If your child is vaping marijuana, they will still have the same side effects that they would have if smoking marijuana, including “bloodshot eyes, dry mouth and thirst, increased appetite and shifts in behavior and mood” (Partnership for Drug-Free Kids). They recommend that if you find vaping materials to have a conversation with your child about what they are doing and go from there.
What are the dangers of nicotine?
Some kids will try to sell to parents that nicotine in a vape isn’t really bad for you, it’s just the other stuff in cigarettes that is dangerous. However, research shows, nicotine is highly addictive with withdrawal symptoms including “cravings, a sense of emptiness, anxiety, depression, moodiness, irritability, difficulty focusing or paying attention” (Weatherspoon, 2018). The list of side effects from nicotine use is long including “enlargement of the aorta (heart), harmful blood clots, increase risk of stroke, diseases of the coronary artery (heart disease), contributing to the risk of diabetes, and spasms of the lungs” (Weatherspoon, 2018).
Are there any other dangers in a vape?
Vapes do contain other harmful substances including, “toxic cancer-causing chemicals … ultra-fine particles, and heavy metals like nickel, tin and lead” (Reese). Dr. Reese (2018) goes on to explain, “Not only are teens inhaling these substances into their own lungs but bystanders also are inhaling these toxins.” These dangerous chemicals are not found in the vape liquid ingredients, instead they are listed in the flavorings descriptions (Fox, 2018). Teens are thinking that it isn’t dangerous, but the research is showing this isn’t true.
In addition, some vapes and e-cigarettes have caught on fire (Reese, 2018).
There is recent good news that the FDA will soon ban many flavored e-cigarettes (Kaplan, 2018). Tobacco companies fought this change arguing that e-cigarettes were helping adults to quit smoking combustible cigarettes, but the FDA stated that packaging and flavors are appealing to youth. Dr. Gottlieb stated, “I think that there’s a perception that e-cigarettes are a safer alternative for kids, but it can lead to a lifelong addiction, and some percentage will migrate to combustible products” (as cited by Kaplan, 2018).
Given all of this information, vapes are something that parents should be concerned about and should start talking with their kids about.
If you are in need of help or know someone in need of help for a drug addiction, Dial 211, 24 hours a day for a confidential call or visit www.drugfreeshelbycounty.org to learn more.
This is one article in a series of articles written with the backing of the Shelby County Drug Task Force Education and Prevention Committee with the goal of increasing awareness and developing supports to prevent substance use.
Biggers, A. (2018). Are e-cigarettes a safe alternative to smoking? Medical News Today. Retrieved from https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/216550.php
Fox, M. (2018). Is teen vaping an epidemic? These experts say yes. NBC News. Retrieved from https://www.nbcnews.com/health/health-news/teen-vaping-really-epidemic-these-experts-think-so-n909891
Fox, M. (2018). Teens inhale cancer-causing chemicals in e-cigarettes. NBC News. Retrieved from https://www.nbcnews.com/health/health-news/teen-inhale-cancer-causing-chemicals-e-cigarettes-n853611
Kaplan, S. (2018). F.D.A. plans to ban most flavored e-cigarette sales in stores. The New York Times. Retrieved from https://www.nytimes.com/2018/11/08/health/vaping-ecigarettes-fda.html
Partnership for Drug-Free Kids (2018). How to know if your kid is vaping marijuana — and what to do about it. Retrieved from https://drugfree.org/parent-blog/know-kid-vaping-marijuana/
Reese, J. (2018). The dangers of vaping and e-cigarettes. Newsroom- Johns Hopkins Medicine. Retrieved from https://www.hopkinsallchildrens.org/ACH-News/General-News/The-Dangers-of-Vaping-and-E-Cigarettes
Weatherspoon, D. (2018). Everything you need to know about nicotine. Medical News Today. Retrieved from https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/240820.php
Julie Willoughby, Ph.D., is a parent advocate for Shelby County Drug Task Force Education and Prevention Committee. She also is the director of curriculum and instruction of Urbana City School.