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Using e-cigarettes, a practice often referred to as “vaping” has been claimed by many to be a safe alternative to traditional tobacco cigarettes. However, research suggests vaping can be especially dangerous for teens.
E-cigarettes are battery-operated devices that heat (sometimes flavored) liquid and turn it into an aerosol to then be inhaled. The solution in e-cigarettes can contain ingredients like vegetable glycerin, propylene glycol, nicotine, flavorings and other additives.
The majority of e-cigarettes contain nicotine—a highly addictive substance. Once a person becomes dependent on nicotine, it is extremely difficult to stop using it. Quitting an addictive substance such as nicotine can lead to symptoms such as strong cravings, anxiety, irritability, restlessness, depression and anger.
A dependence of nicotine in teens and young adults should be a high concern for parents and guardians because the brain is still developing in people younger than 25. Exposing the brain to an addictive drug early on can lead to potentially permanent alterations in brain chemistry. These alterations can disrupt the growth and development of the brain in areas that control learning and attention. Additionally, nicotine dependence may also make teens more susceptible to other forms of addiction in the future.
Because vaping is a relatively new form of smoking, the long-term effects have not been thoroughly researched. However, studies suggest that there are negative short-term health effects associated with vaping:
Some vapors also contain ingredients that could be toxic such as nickel, tin, lead and benzene.
Although some people claim vaping rather than smoking tobacco cigarettes can be an effective way to quit smoking, no significant studies have been published to show that vaping is an effective cessation method compared to other therapies approved by the Food and Drug Administration, such as nicotine patches.
Because vaping is a problem among teenagers, it is important for parents to be aware of the negative effects and to talk to their teenager about the consequences. Some tips include:
If you need additional resources, the Surgeon General has created a pamphlet to help parents talk to their teens about vaping.
“Mayo Clinic Q&A: Vaping health risks for teens.” Mayo Clinic.
“Electronic cigarettes: Not a safe way to light up.” Mayo Clinic.
“Teen Vaping: What You Should Know.” WebMD.
“Talk With Your Teen About E-cigarettes: A Tip Sheet for Parents.” SurgeonGeneral.Gov
The Live Better Team
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This information is not intended to replace the advice of a medical professional. You should always consult your doctor before making decisions about your health.