Alice Smith

Lately we have been hearing several reports of problems with vaping. These problems might be illness or something as serious as death. While some might see vaping as a harmless, or even a safer alternative to the once very common practice of smoking, the fact of the matter is vaping is very dangerous and the Center for Disease Control is recommending against any use of electronic smoking devices.

First introduced to help smokers reduce or quit smoking, e-cigarettes have been on the market for several years. Many people see e-cigarettes as a healthier alternative to traditional cigarettes. While e-cigarettes may be a less harmful option for those wanting to quit smoking, there are still dangerous health effects to be aware of. You may be surprised to know that most adults continue to use both cigarettes and e-cigarettes simultaneously. E-Cigs are battery-operated and people use these devices to inhale aerosol. The product being inhaled typically contains nicotine, flavorings and other chemicals.

Many e-cigarettes have battery-powered heating devices, which turns the liquid into vapor. Then the person can inhale the vapor, which is where the word “vaping” comes from. They do not produce any smoke like a traditional cigarette does, according to Keck School of Medicine.

E-cigarettes are still a new product, and there is not enough research to understand the long-term effects. Here’s what we do know. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the aerosol that users inhale and exhale can contain harmful (and potentially harmful) substances, such as nicotine, flavorings like diacetyl (this has been linked to a dangerous lung disease), volatile organic compounds, cancer-causing chemicals and heavy metals.

In the past year, vaping has increased by 78% among high school students. According to the Center on Addiction, “vaping is the act of inhaling and exhaling the aerosol, often referred to as vapor, which is produced by an e-cigarette or similar device.” Technically, e-cigarettes and vaping are the same because neither product produces tobacco smoke, rather, an aerosol consisting of fine particles. E-cigarettes are included in the list of vapor products that include vape pens and personal vaporizers, AKA MODS.

The Center on Addiction says: “Generally a vaping device consists of a mouthpiece, a battery, a cartridge for containing the e-liquid or e-juice, and a heating component for the device that is powered by a battery. When the device is used, the battery heats up the heating component, which turns the contents of the e-liquid into an aerosol that is inhaled into the lungs and then exhaled.”

There are several types of e-cigarettes on the market, but one popular brand is JUUL. JUUL is becoming more prevalent with teens because of its small size, and it looks like a USB device. When using a JUUL it is often referred to as JUULing.

One study report in 2018 revealed that one in five high school students admitted they had used e-cigarettes or vaping in the past month. Another study reports that seven out of 10 high school students have tried e-cigarettes or vaping. The practice is becoming popular, because some devices are very small and can be easily hidden. Unlike smoking a cigarette, a student can take a quick hit nearly anywhere including on a bus, in the restroom and even in class.

A message up on the CDC website as of Saturday, September 7, describes e-cigarettes (and similar devices) as a potentially healthy alternative for regular cigarettes.

"E-cigarettes have the potential to benefit adult smokers who are not pregnant if used as a complete substitute for regular cigarettes and other smoked tobacco products," the CDC writes on its official website. "E-cigarettes are not safe for youth, young adults, pregnant women or adults who do not currently use tobacco products."

Some people have suggested that use of e-cigarettes by young people might "protect" them from using cigarettes. There is no evidence to support this claim. Some studies show that non-smoking youth who use e-cigarettes are more likely to try conventional cigarettes in the future than non-smoking youth who do not use e-cigarettes. And among high school students and young adults who use two or more tobacco products, a majority use both e-cigarettes and burned tobacco products. Burned tobacco products like cigarettes are responsible for the overwhelming majority of tobacco-related deaths and disease in the United States.

There have been at least five deaths across the country blamed on e-cigarettes or vaping. If you know someone who is vaping, even occasionally, share the information with them and ask them to drop the habit.

Parents of teens who are vaping might want to download the flyer, for assistance. Also, when talking to teens about this or other difficult subjects, keep the following points in mind. First, know the facts about the topic. Secondly, remember that your goal is to hold a conversation and educate and help the teen make good decisions, not to lecture or punish them. Finally, remember the conversation can take place over time.

Rather than saying “we need to talk,” you might ask your teen what he or she thinks about a situation you witness together, such as: seeing someone use an e-cigarette in person or in a video, passing an e-cigarette shop when you are walking or driving or seeing an e-cigarette advertisement in a store or magazine. Ask the teens opinion and share your thoughts in a non-confrontational way.

Your goal as a parent is to keep your children safe and help them to make wise decisions. As a parent, you have the right to know what your children have in their room as well. Make sure they are not engaging in behaviors such as vaping that can cause long term health problems or death. Work to maintain a relationship with your children that allows open and honest conversation about these issues.