Electronic cigarettes have exploded in popularity in recent years, and they now comprise a $1.5 billion market that’s expected to grow nearly 25 percent by 2018, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics Julius B. Richmond Center of Excellence. In 2015, ten percent of eighth graders, 14 percent of tenth graders and 16 percent of 12th graders had used e-cigarettes, which is considerably higher than the number of adolescents in those age groups who have smoked cigarettes. As a parent, it’s important to know everything there is to know about teens and smoking.
The American Academy of Pediatrics points out that one reason for the high prevalence of adolescents using e-cigarettes is that the U.S. currently has no federal law barring minors from purchasing or using e-cigarettes, and in many states, young people of any age can obtain them from the local convenience store or mall kiosk.
What Exactly Are E-Cigarettes?
An electronic cigarette is a battery-operated device made up of three components: An inhaler cartridge that holds a liquid that may or may not contain nicotine, a vaporizer that heats the liquid and turns it into a vapor and a battery that powers the vaporizer. The vapor is inhaled, and a foggy plume is exhaled that looks much like smoke.
Some e-cigarettes are made to resemble traditional cigarettes, while others have the appearance of a fountain pen. The act of “smoking” an e-cigarette is known as “vaping,” since you’re inhaling vapor rather than smoke.
The Dangers of Vaping
The liquid in e-cigarettes may or may not contain nicotine and flavoring. Flavors abound and include bubblegum, grape, chocolate and others that are naturally attractive to young people. Because e-cigarettes are unregulated, the amount of nicotine and other chemicals in the cartridge varies widely among brands and may be different from what’s labeled by the manufacturer.
E-cigarettes are often marketed as a smoking cessation tool, but experts agree that there are far better replacement therapies for quitting smoking. Although e-cigarettes are fairly new and research on the short- and long-term effects is still ongoing, it’s been established that the liquid in e-cigarettes contains a number of extremely harmful chemicals, including antifreeze, diethylene glycol and a wide range of carcinogens.
When the liquid is heated, it produces higher levels of formaldehyde than is seen in regular cigarettes, and it releases heavy metals that are used in the manufacturing process of the components. When the vapor is inhaled, it irritates the lungs and may cause or worsen respiratory conditions like asthma and bronchitis.
Talking to Your Teen About Vaping is Essential
A recent study published in the journal Tobacco Control found that adolescents who vape are more likely than those who don’t to switch to traditional cigarettes within a year. Talking to your teen about e-cigarettes just as you would about smoking or taking other harmful psychoactive substances is essential for helping to reduce her risk of taking up vaping, especially in light of the fact that many young people believe vaping is safer than smoking regular cigarettes and may not otherwise know of the dangers it poses.
If you’d like some guidance on how to talk to your teen about vaping and smoking, the American Lung Association has some great tips for parents, including information about the best way to respond if your teen has already begun vaping or smoking. If your teen has already started smoking and needs help to quit, contact us at 877-466-0620.