In Part 1, we looked at the basic components of e-cigs, as well as why they appeal to teens. If it’s available in chocolate flavor and legal to buy at the nearest mall, what could the harm be? A lot, actually. While an increasing number of states have current or pending legislation restricting the use of e-cigs or sale to minors, teens in most states remain “free to vape.” Parents need to educate themselves — and their teens — about the dangers of these alluring gadgets.
Most Significant Risks
While e-cigs are not as addictive as regular cigarettes, they aren’t as satisfying, either. While that makes them a potential tool for those weaning themselves off nicotine addictions, it can also go the other way. The greatest risk involved in vaping — for teens and young adults, in particular — is as a “gateway drug,” leading to use of traditional cigarettes, typically within a year of beginning to use e-cigs.
According to Fadlo Khuri, MD, Deputy Director of Winship Cancer Institute, this risk is a significant one: e-cigs can lead to a rewiring of the brain, predisposing a person to become more susceptible to even riskier addictions. Combined with the rate of teen vaping tripling in the last few years, the chances of transitioning from vaping to smoking may lead to a return of smoking as a normative behavior, with its associated risks.
Less Common Risks
As far as any issues directly associated with nicotine absorbed through the mouth, as vaping allows, the long-term risks are not yet known. Many suggest that since nicotine is a known carcinogen, the potential for risk through any kind of contact is too risky to consider. Other cancer-causing substances can be issues for e-cig users, too. The newer e-cigs allow for high voltage, which produces increased levels of formaldehyde — up to fifteen times more of the substance than traditional cigarettes contain. Another potential danger is that it’s increasingly popular on the party scene for teens to combine tobacco and marijuana in e-cigs.
Unlike traditional cigarettes, e-cigs lack tell-tale signs like smoke or distinctive odors. What appears to be a new pen or flash drive might actually be delivering toxins to your child — and increasing his or her risk for addictions, later in life. Keep an eye on any secretive or suspicious behavior, including new purchases, online searches or purchases, or unexpected deliveries. And if your child smells like coffee or candy and you didn’t see any out, ask. It’s not only your right, but it’s your responsibility to know what your child is ingesting.
Trends like vaping are affecting younger and younger kids; in fact, many start to be exposed around age twelve, before they’re officially teenagers. Parents need to be pro-active, discussing the issues connected to drug and alcohol use even before they think their child is at risk. Sometimes kids don’t even realize that what they’re doing can be dangerous, especially when it’s completely legal and seems like a kid-friendly treat.