Called an “epidemic” by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), vaping continues to make headlines, with experts issuing more urgent warnings about the addictive nicotine content of e-cigarettes, and the harmful chemicals they contain.
Not only can e-cigarettes (also called vapes, vape pens, mods, and tanks) hook kids early through clever packaging and “fruit” flavors (lures that the FDA is fighting). A 2018 study by the Truth Initiative® found that 63 percent of teens and young adults age 15 to 24 said they didn’t even know that vaping devices contained varied amounts of nicotine in the e-liquid they inhale. In fact, the top selling brand contains as much as five percent nicotine. As with all e-cigarettes, they contain many other harmful chemicals, too.
Some vaping ads are now targeting adults who are looking to quit smoking, to use vaping instead of cigarettes (a method not approved by the FDA). Research is ongoing, but a 2018 study reported in the New England Journal of Medicine found that 82 percent of those people who vaped didn’t quit smoking after one year, and among most who did quit cigarettes, 80 percent continued vaping. Other research points to those who both vape and smoke, while another in 2017 found that these “dual” users quit e-cigarettes and went back to tobacco after just two years. A 2019 American Heart Association study found that e-cigarettes are associated with an increased risk of heart attack, the same as regular cigarettes.
The American Lung Association says that no e-cigarette is safe or effective in quitting smoking. Both the FDA and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have sounded the alarm, saying there’s already enough evidence to prevent vaping device use by youths and young adults. E-cigarette use rose 78 percent in high schoolers and 48 percent in middle school students between 2017 and 2018 alone.
The American Cancer Society and the American Lung Association warn against vaping:
- Vaping devices contain volatile organic compounds (VOCs) that can severely irritate the eyes, throat, and lungs, making you more likely to catch a cold or flu. VOCs can cause headaches and nausea, plus damage to the central nervous system, kidneys, and liver.
- Both cancer-causing formaldehyde, and acrolein, a weed killer known to cause irreversible lung damage, are found in e-cigarettes.
- Some vape flavors contain toxic levels of diacetyl, which is linked to bronchiolitis obliterans (or “popcorn lung”), a condition that permanently harms the lungs’ smallest airways, causing coughing and shortness of breath.
- Nicotine of any kind or amount is addictive. (Kids who vape are more likely to smoke cigarettes, as well as marijuana, studies say.) Whether in tobacco-burning cigarettes or in e-liquid, nicotine can cause cancer, heart disease, and lung disease. It makes it harder to concentrate, learn, and control impulses. It can also harm a developing brain. Small children who ingest e-liquid, might have trouble breathing. They could feel faint, or vomit. Nicotine can seriously poison them, causing a convulsion, or a heart attack.
The bottom line: Vaping hurts your child and you. Talk with your kids about vaping dangers. Know your kids’ friends, and if they vape. Parents: Don’t vape, because kids learn from adults. Protect your health — and your kids’ health, too!
By Lisa Miceli Feliciano