It’s become an all too familiar sight – someone, somewhere, blowing a thick cloud of smoke out of what looks like a fancy pen. E-cigarettes are becoming popular among teenagers as well as adults. Teenagers are now using e-cigs more than commonly than they are cigarettes. Teenagers often think that vaping is safe and there is little to no side effects that come from vaping. It’s important for parents to understand what e-cigs are, why so many teens are using them, and the negative effect they have on the teenage body.
What are e-cigs?
First, let’s take a look into what an e-cigarette actually is and how they work. E-cigarettes are an electronic device that has a heating element that heats a liquid to the point where it vaporizes. Here in Hawaii you must be 21 years old to buy e-cigarettes or e-liquid. The devices are often powered by a battery and can either be single use or can be reusable. The reusable one is more popular because it has many uses before it needs to be replace. E-liquid is the liquid that vaporizes and creates the smoke effect. E-liquid often contains nicotine and comes in many different flavors and types. E-cigarettes come in various shapes, sizes and colors, making them easy to hide and difficult for parents identify them.
Why teens are using e-cigs
Teens have started to use e-cigs more now than other forms of smoking tobacco. A few terms your teen may be using when referring to e-cigs include vape, vaping, mods, dripping, e-juice or liquid. E-cigs seems to have become increasingly popular among teens for several reasons.
First, many teens believe that there are little to no side effects from using e-cigs which is not the case. Teens believe e-cigs to be a healthier alternative to cigarettes. This idea is promoted through advertisements and social media. Youth are also inundated with ads about e-cigarettes. Advertisers know how to target kids, particularly on social media. According to the CDC, more than 2/3 of teens see e-cigarette ads. Research also indicates that teens who use e-cigs are more likely to start smoking. The infographic below, from the National Institute of Drug Abuse, shows the prevalence of e-cig ads and the impact on youth.
Advertisers, and young people themselves, create articles and videos targeting teens with vaping techniques and “smoke” tricks. E-cigs fluids also come in different flavors that appeal to teenagers, including fruity, tropical or sweet mixtures. With innocuous sounding names like Mint Chocolate, Cherry Crush, and Banana, e-cigs are marketed in a way that appeals to youth. E-cig ads use all the same tricks that cigarette companies did previously – using themes of independence and rebellion, cartoon images, and celebrity promoters.
When teen use e-cigs they are less like to be detected by adult because there is no distinct odor or residual odor on their clothes after vaping unlike cigarettes. Teens take advantage of this and even use e-cigs in home without being detected. E-cigs are relatively cheap and many can be ordered online without proof of ID which makes it easy for teens to get their hands on one.
Negative health impacts of e-cigs
What effect do e-cigarettes have on a developing teenage body and brain? Although there is nothing burning in an e-cigs like normal cigarettes there still are carcinogens being produced from the heating of the liquid. Some e-fluids have dangerous chemicals and high levels nicotine. Additionally inhaling the e-cig vapors can cause problems in the lungs and there are other health concerns. Nicotine found in e-cigs is highly addicting just as normal cigarettes and teens will be likely to use more often if they become addicted. Furthermore, nicotine has been known to cause harm to developing brains of adolescents.
How parents can help
As a parent set a good example for your teenager, try not to smoke cigarettes or e-cigs in front of your child. Let them know that there are harmful side effects that come from using e-cigs and that they are not safe products. Talk to them about all dangerous substance and give advice on how to refuse if being offered. Be proactive if you discover your teen is using e-cigs and help them stop vaping.