While you're talking to your kids about drugs, smoking, sex and internet safety, think about adding vaping to the list.
Vaping is popular among teenagers now for all the wrong reasons. Many teens are under the incorrect assumption that because an e-cigarette is not a traditional paper-rolled-around-tobacco, it's not a health risk.
They couldn't be more wrong.
According to the National Youth Tobacco Survey, current e-cigarette use - defined by use on at least one day in the past 30 days -by high school students increased 78 percent, from 2017 to 2018 and 40-60% of those polled admitted to also smoking cigarettes at the same time.
"The most dangerous aspect of e-cigarettes is that up until 2016, they were completely unregulated and even today we still don't know exactly what's being inhaled," warned Brent Fuller, M.D., Beaumont pediatrician and internal medicine physician. "You're inhaling a multitude of chemicals (at least 60 chemical compounds have been found in e-cigarettes so far). Because of the unknowns, we don't know what the long-term effects of vaping will be, but I would worry about cancer, the increased risk of dependency (studies show that using e-cigarettes increases the likelihood of smoking cigarettes), and the effect it has on brain development."
According to the American Lung Association, even some e-cigarettes that claimed to be nicotine free tested positive for the drug.
"There are acetylcholine receptors in the brain and other places in the body and, when nicotine enters your system, it binds to them," explained Dr. Fuller. "The long-term effect of nicotine is a higher risk for addiction and a negative impact on brain development, specifically, your working memory and attention span. So, high schoolers who smoke e-cigarettes could be risking their grades and, potentially, their future careers, because they can't pay attention in school."
Parents should also be concerned if their kids are athletes and think it's OK to vape. "This isn't just a water solution that tastes like bubble gum or some other cute flavor. One of the known chemicals in e-cigarettes is diacetyl, which can effect lung capacity and eventually lead to a disease called 'popcorn lung,'" said Dr. Fuller. "In addition to your breathing, if your attention span is impaired by nicotine and you can't pay attention to your game, you won't be playing at peak performance."
If those aren't reasons enough to warn teens off vaping, consider this:
- Some e-cigarettes tested positive for an ingredient used in anti-freeze, others are known to contain formaldehyde.
- Poison Control has gotten calls about young adults and children ingesting the chemicals in the cartridges. These poisonings can lead to seizures. Vaping devices have also been known to explode.
- Second-hand smoke is an issue. The unknown chemicals in the vapors you exhale can harm your friends and family. Pregnant women and children are the most susceptible.
"I've had this conversation with my own teenagers, and it's important for other parents to do the same. There are just too many unknowns with e-cigarettes and vaping for anyone to feel safe doing it," said Dr. Fuller.
Signs your child may be vaping
- Increased secrecy. Unwilling to discuss or answer questions.
- Increased irritability and mood changes due to nicotine addiction.
- Disappearing money.
- Increased unwillingness to stay home.
- Increased thirst. Vaping causes dehydration of the skin of the mouth and throat. This leaves users with a dry, flat palate. If your child is increasing their liquid consumption, and also peeing more, they may be vaping.
- Desire for flavor. When the mouth is dried out, flavor perception is lost. Notice if your teen is using more salt or requesting spicy foods.
- Nosebleeds. In addition to dry mouth, vaping also dries the skin of the nose. When the nose gets dry, it can bleed.
- Finding paraphernalia around the house.