E-cigarettes and vaping have exploded in popularity over the past few years and are being used by both adolescents and adults. Marketed and promoted to be a safe alternative to cigarette smoking, we now know this is far from the truth. The American Academy of Pediatrics joins the CDC to remind parents that e-cigarette use is never safe for youth, young adults, pregnant or breastfeeding women.
So, what is vaping?
A vape or vaporizer is any device that heats and aerosolizes a solution or “e-juice” meant to be inhaled. Devices include e-cigarettes, personal vaporizers, vape pens, e-cigars, pod systems, e-hookah, or other vaping devices. An e-cigarette is a type of vape that uses a nicotine-based solution. A JUUL is a brand name e-cigarette. Electronic nicotine devices can look like a pen, a memory stick or flash drive, a key fob, or even an asthma inhaler, which is why they are easy to hide or disguise.
What are the dangers?
The solutions used in these types of devices contain harmful chemicals like antifreeze, diethylene glycol, and carcinogens like nitrosamines and formaldehyde. The nicotine in e-cigarettes is addictive and can harm brain development, cause ADHD-like symptoms in the developing brain or even seizures. Secondhand smoke or vapor from these devices is harmful to grow lungs, which are still developing until at least mid-adolescence.
Vaping illness and lung injury symptoms can include:
- coughing, shortness of breath, or chest pain
- nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, or diarrhea
- fever, chills, or weight loss
Adolescence is a time when the brain is very vulnerable to addiction. We know that most lifelong addiction to nicotine begins in adolescence or early young adulthood. If people can get through that period without smoking, it’s much less likely that they will become smokers in the future.
In some cases, e-cigarette devices have exploded, causing serious burns or fires.
Is Your Child Vaping?
Since many of the vaping devices look like everyday objects and there’s no actual ‘smoke’, it can be hard to catch kids in the act. Here are a few signs to look for if you suspect your child is vaping:
- Unusual items. Keep an eye out for refill pods, atomizers, and cartridges, which some vaping devices use, and batteries that require recharging. Organic cotton balls and thin metallic coils are other components used when vaping. Vaping devices can also be hidden inside common items like highlighters.
- Sweet smell. Although odorless and scented liquids can be used in electronic smoking devices, many teens choose scented vapor. The most popular flavors are sweet so you may notice an unusually sweet smell, although it goes away quickly.
- Changes in thirst and taste. The process of vaping makes users’ mouths dry. If your child is drinking more than usual, it may be a sign they’re vaping. A dry mouth also makes food taste less flavorful, so if your child is using more spices or salt, that may also be a clue.
- Nosebleeds. Not only does the mouth get dry when vaping but so does the inside of the nose as the vapor is exhaled through the nostrils. This can cause nosebleeds.
- Lower caffeine intake. Vaping causes some people to be more sensitive to caffeine. If your teen is skipping the daily caffeine fix, it may be time to look for other signs of vaping.
- Cough, throat-clearing, or mouth sores. Researchers have linked vaping to mouth wounds that won’t heal and a smoker’s-like cough.
While the research on vaping is still in its infancy, one thing is clear: it’s just not good for you.
Ask Your Pediatrician for Help in Talking to Your Children About the Dangers of Vaping.
Children’s Medical Center can be a valuable resource for ways to talk to your children about the dangers of vaping. Schedule a consultation today or have your child meet with their pediatrician or family doctor to discuss the health risks or to get help with stopping. Above all, be open and honest with your children about what they are seeing at school and how they feel about it. It’s never too early to educate your child.