Health Topics

Vaping in Teens

What You Need to Know and Tips on How to Talk to Your Teens
By Kevin Germino, MD, FAAP

Marketed as a healthy alternative to smoking, vaping is a relatively new trend that is growing at a fast rate. In September of 2019, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued a public warning, urging people not to use e-cigarettes. Pediatrician, Dr. Kevin Germino, shares facts, risks and tips on talking to your teens about the dangers of vaping.

What is Vaping?
Vaping is the use of an electronic cigarette, also known as an e-cigarette, or other device to inhale clouds of vapor.

The Device
Vaping devices are available in two main styles known as MODs and PODs. While they deliver the same results, there are notable differences between the two systems.

Mechanical Modified Nicotine Delivery System (MOD)
A MOD vape is a handheld, battery-powered device with a liquid reservoir or tank, a heating element, mouthpiece and power button. A liquid known as solution, juice or e-juice, are placed into the reservoir and heated, turning the liquid into vapor that is inhaled by the user.

Portable Delivery System (POD)
A POD vape is system that does not have a liquid reservoir tank and heating element. Instead, this style of vape is used with a pre-filled pod, a container filled with the solution, which is inserted into the body of the device. Pods are activated by the user inhaling from the mouthpiece.

The Dangers
There are several concerns around the rising trend. Although there are risks associated with the vaping device itself and the renormalization of smoking, the main concern with national health agencies and healthcare providers lies in the vaping solution.

Nicotine and Other Potentially Harmful Chemicals
Although many products state that they are nicotine-free, traces of nicotine have been found in several vaping solutions. All of the PODs sold by the most well-known brand of vaping devices on the market contain nicotine, some containing as much as 20mg/ml.

In addition to nicotine, at least 41 other chemicals have been identified in e-cigarettes, and exposure to at least 22 of these chemicals is considered potentially harmful.

Potentially Harmful Chemicals

  • Acetaldehyde
  • Acetone
  • Acrolein
  • Benzene
  • Cadmium
  • Chromium
  • Diacetyl
  • Diethylene Glycol
  • Formaldehyde
  • Isoprene
  • Lead
  • Nickel
  • Nicotine
  • N-Nitrosonornicotine
  • O-Methylbenzaldehyde
  • Phenol
  • Plycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons
  • Propanol
  • Propylene Glycol
  • Tin
  • Toluene
  • Vitamin E acetate

Unregulated quality control
There are no regulations in place around the quality control of vaping devices. Poorly manufactured devices have led to malfunctions, such as explosions, causing burns and other serious injuries.

Renormalization of Smoking
Prior to vaping hitting the U.S. market, smoking in the teen populations was steadily declining. The trend is growing rapidly and is linked to increased cigarette usage. Thirty point seven percent of e-cigarette smokers begin smoking traditional cigarettes within six months. Forty percent of teen smokers did not smoke prior to vaping.

Teens: The Target Consumer
Vaping and tobacco companies target teens. Advertisers market directly to teens through targeted ads in stores and on television, as well as on social media and the internet. In 2013, there were more than 30,000 YouTube videos related to e-cigarettes with over 100,000,000 views. Additionally, to date, there are over 7,000 flavors on the market  such as strawberry, birthday cake and chocolate.

Myth vs. Fact
Myth: Vaping isn’t addictive.

Fact: The use of nicotine-based vaping is highest in middle and high school aged teens. Nicotine is a highly addictive drug, putting the user at risk of serious health conditions.

Myth: Vaping is safer than smoking traditional cigarettes.

Fact: Although there are less chemicals in vaping liquids, users are still exposed to at least 42 potentially harmful chemicals and carcinogens.

Myth: Vaping is a smoking cessation aid.

Fact: Vaping is more common in teens than adults and 30.7 percent of e-cigarette smokers begin smoking traditional cigarettes within six months. Ninety percent of smokers started smoking before the age of 19 and 40 percent of those did not smoke prior to vaping.

The Risks
Vaping is recognized as a public health threat. The CDC reports that there were 36 million teen users in 2018 and that 4.9 percent of middle schoolers and 20.8 percent of high schoolers had vaped in the last 30 days.

Nicotine Exposure and Brain Development
Brain development continues until age 25. Nicotine affects brain circuits, which are responsible for attention, impulse control and learning. The drug also increases the risk for medical disorders such as cancer, heart disease, stroke and respiratory disease.

Lung Injury and Death
The CDC provides a weekly update to the total number of hospitalization cases associated with e-cigarettes. As of November 5, 2019, approximately 2,051 cases of lung injuries have been reported as well as 39 deaths. 

What Can You Do
Prevention is key to slowing the growth of vaping in teens. Talking to your teens is the first step toward introducing them to the dangers of vaping. The CDC offers tips on ways to start the conversation, such as:

Arm Yourself with Facts
Do your homework and research credible sites for facts, statistics and other information.

Start the Conversation
Keep in mind that your goal is to encourage a conversation. Finding the right moment can go a long way in supporting an open dialogue. Be prepared to answer their questions and to share experiences you may have had.

Ask your teens questions, such as what have they heard about vaping or if their friends have tried it, and then let them talk. Aim to hear them without judgement and understand that the conversation may take place over an extended period of time.

Talk to your teens about the dangers of vaping to empower them with knowledge and facts. Your pediatrician can provide tips on how to start the conversation and provide your teen with facts about the risks of vaping. To schedule an appointment with a pediatrician, please call 1.888.MY.DMG.DR (1.888.693.6437) or schedule an appointment online.

Topics and Subtopics: Addiction & Children's Health

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