The use of e-cigarettes among youth in the United States has been growing rapidly for the past couple of years. This study found that more than one in three (37%) high school seniors admitted to vaping in 2018. That number is up from 28% in 2017. This is an alarming trend. Especially when you consider that it is illegal to sell e-cigarettes to anyone under 21 in some states. In others, the law is 18 or 19. Here in Idaho, it is 18. The U.S. Surgeon General has called the use of these products by America’s youth an epidemic. Here’s what you need to know about e-cigarettes.
What Are E-Cigarettes?
Electronic cigarettes (e-cigarettes) are battery-powered devices that deliver nicotine, flavorings, and other ingredients to the user. Using e-cigarettes is commonly referred to as “vaping.” E-cigarettes do not create harmless “water vapor” — they create an aerosol that can contain harmful chemicals.
How Many Kids Are Using E-cigarettes?
According to information from the Centers For Disease Control And Prevention (CDC):
- E-cigarettes have been the most commonly used tobacco product among U.S. youth since 2014.
- In 2018, CDC and FDA data showed that more than 3.6 million U.S. youth, including 1 in 5 high school students and 1 in 20 middle school students, were past-month e-cigarettes users.
- During 2017 and 2018, e-cigarette use skyrocketed among youth, leading the U.S. Surgeon General to call the use of these products among youth an epidemic in the United States.
What Are The Risks?
Anytime we put something into our body it has the potential to affect our health. That potential increases greatly when chemicals are involved and even more when there are unknowns. This is the case with e-cigarettes and vaping.
The number of cases of people with lung diseases that are linked to vaping is also on the rise. According to the CDC, severe lung disease cases have developed in nearly half of the 50 states (22 states). Unfortunately, the majority of these cases were for teenagers and young adults. So far, Idaho is not on the list. — But cases have been reported.
Another problem with youth vaping is that most e-cigarettes contain nicotine, which is highly addictive. Nicotine exposure during adolescence can:
- Harm brain development, which continues until about age 25.
- Impact learning, memory, and attention.
- Increase risk for future addiction to other drugs.
- Vaping while pregnant can be harmful to the baby.
- Exposure to the liquid in e-cigarettes has been known to cause nicotine poisoning.
These products appeal to many kids because they are made in kid-friendly flavors — including mango, fruit, and creme. In addition, young people who are vaping may be more likely to go on to use regular cigarettes.
Many people believe e-cigarette aerosol is harmless. But this is not the case. It can actually contain harmful substances, including:
- Cancer-causing chemicals
- Volatile organic compounds
- Ultrafine particles
- Flavorings the have been linked to lung disease
- Heavy metals such as nickel, tin, and lead
There is still much to learn about vaping, e-cigarettes, and how their effects. But we do know that there is some risk to those who are using these products. In fact, there have been instances of the devices exploding and causing burns while recharging.
What Do E-cigarettes Look Like?
- E-cigarettes come in many shapes and sizes. Some look like regular cigarettes, cigars, or pipes. Larger e-cigarettes such as tank systems — or “mods” — do not look like other tobacco products.
- Some e-cigarettes look like other items commonly used by youth, such as pens and other everyday items. New e-cigarettes shaped like USB flash drives are popular among youth, including JUUL and the PAX Era, which looks like JUUL, and delivers marijuana.
What Can You Do As A Parent Or Caregiver?
As a parent or caregiver, you have an important role in protecting children from e-cigarettes.
- Talk to your child or teen about why vaping is harmful to them. It’s never too late.
- Set a good example by being tobacco-free.
- Learn about the different shapes and types of e-cigarettes and the risks of e-cigarette use for young people at www.CDC.gov/e-cigarettes.
About USB Flash Drive-Shaped E-cigarettes
As a parent or caregiver, you may have heard about the use of USB flash drive-shaped e-cigarettes, including JUUL (pronounced “jewel”). JUUL is the top-selling e-cigarette brand in the United States.
JUUL is being used by students in schools, including in classrooms and bathrooms. JUUL’s nicotine liquid refills are called “pods”. According to the manufacturer, a single JUUL pod can contain as much nicotine as a pack of 20 regular cigarettes.
JUUL delivers nicotine in a new form called “nicotine salts”, which can make it less harsh on the throat and easier to use by youth. JUUL also comes in flavors that can appeal to youth.
Just 4 Kids Urgent Care
As the underage use of e-cigarettes continues to climb, it is important to know what our young people are getting into and how it can impact their lives. This is especially true with something like vaping — where there are still a lot of unknowns. And especially when children and teens are involved. If you have a child that you are worried about, don’t hesitate to give us a call or come in for a visit.