Mighty Blog

What parents need to know about e-cigarettes and vapes

E-cigarettes vaporizers, vape pens, e-cigars and e-hookahs are battery-powered smoking devices. Nearly 25 percent of teens use these products, making them a big concern for pediatricians and parents.

Dr. Gigi Chawla, chief of general pediatrics, joined the WCCO Mid-Morning Show hosts to talk about vaping:

What do I need to know?

A Juul is a type of e-cigarette that looks similar to a flash drive and can be charged in a USB port. Many parents don’t realize that their child has one of these devices because the vapor from a Juul is a lot less noticeable and disappears very quickly. Juuls produce less smoke and many Juuls come unscented so parents would not be able to smell it.

These products have been marketed as a safe alternative to smoking, but in reality, they are far from safe. Most e-cigarettes contain nicotine, which is highly addictive and can contain other chemicals.  These chemical-filled cartridges are converted into vapor by the e-cigarettes’ internal heating device, which the user then inhales or “vapes”. Breathing in these chemicals can harm brain development and growing lungs. Vaping is especially risky for children who have asthma because it irritates the lungs, can make it more difficult to control asthma on a day-to-day basis, and can lead to more flare-ups. The speed and relative ease to vape a Juul cartridge, as compared to the burn time for a cigarette, is also a concern that leads to more significant nicotine exposure and addiction.

Aside from the danger the vapor has, the solution in the cartridges is dangerous and toxic if swallowed or ingested. Swallowing less than half a teaspoon of nicotine can be deadly; symptoms of nicotine poisoning include sweating, dizziness, vomiting, and elevated blood pressure and heart rate.

Many believe that e-cigarettes will limit the use of traditional cigarettes, but this is not true. Research has shown that kids and teens who use e-cigarettes are more likely to smoke traditional cigarettes later on. In fact, the use of e-cigarettes actually makes people less likely to quit smoking entirely.

In fact, 5.6 million of Americans younger than 18 will die early from a smoking-related illness. That is about 1 of every 13 Americans aged 17 years or younger who are alive today according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

vape

How can parents prevent kids and teens from vaping?

  • Limit their exposure to e-cigarettes, this increases the odds that they’ll never start.
  • Talk to them about the dangers of smoking while they are young, but expand the conversation to include e-cigarettes and vaping.
  • Quit smoking. While this isn’t easy, kids learn from example and will respond best if your actions line up with your advice.
  • If your teen smokes or vapes, help them develop a quit plan by keeping them busy and serving as a support team for your child. A pediatrician may have more guidance on how to tackle this subject with your child.
Kaitlyn Kamleiter