E-Cigarettes and Vaping: What Parents and Their Teens Need to Know

When e-cigarettes became available in 2004, it made sense they would be less dangerous than smoking combustible or traditional tobacco-based cigarettes, both for smokers and those around them. Although this still is true, and some advocate for vaping as a smoking cessation aid, there are growing concerns about the popularity, use and availability of e-cigarettes, especially among youth.

What are e-cigarettes?

E-cigarettes, are handheld battery-operated devices that work by heating a liquid to generate steam, commonly called a vapour, that users inhale or “vape.” In this way, vaping can deliver doses of vaporized nicotine, or non-nicotine solutions, providing a similar experience to inhaling tobacco smoke, but without the smoke.Regular tobacco smoke contains thousands of chemicals, many of which are toxic. We don’t know exactly what chemicals are in e-cigarettes, nor their long-term consequences, but there’s almost no doubt they expose people to fewer toxic chemicals than traditional smoking.

Is vaping bad for our health?

Most e-cigarettes state they contain nicotine, which is also the major component in traditional tobacco cigarettes and products. Nicotine raises blood pressure and heart rate. Using-e-cigarettes daily almost doubles the risk for a heart attack. Nicotine is highly addictive— even as addictive as heroin and cocaine. Many e-cigarette users get even more nicotine than they would from a tobacco product. Some devices contain as much nicotine as full pack of traditional cigarettes. Because it is so addictive, withdrawal symptoms can develop if the craving is not satisfied by smoking or vaping. Nicotine can also affect adolescent brain development resulting in memory and concentration difficulties. Not much is known about the long-term health effects of the other chemicals found in vape liquid, although e-cigarette vapour contains a number of potentially toxic chemicals. As such, experts warn vaping is potentially dangerous.In the short-term, vaping can cause respiratory symptoms including cough, wheezing and the worsening of asthma.

Vaping is not for youth

An alarming trend observed in North America is the ever-rising use of e-cigarettes by youth. In Ontario for example, the number of high school students who have vaped, has increased by 46 per cent over the last two years.If one looks at social media postings and popular online videos, vaping is often displayed as being cool among and by youth. This is amplified by marketing campaigns that appeal to youth, including slick ads, sleek high-tech vaping devices, and the thousands of added flavours including bubble gum, menthol and banana cream. As a result, in September, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), declared vaping rates among youth an epidemic and ordered vaping manufacturers to stop marketing to children and youth.

Public health advocacy groups strongly feel all vape products should not be displayed and exposed to youth, and but rather should be covered or hidden just like traditional cigarettes are. In addition to being associated with increased future tendency to smoke, young vapers are more likely to vape cannabis, which can have serious long-term effects on the growing adolescent brainTo offset this exposure, many jurisdictions have banned the retail display and promotion of vapour products, except in specialty vape shops. Although vaping may be a safer alternative than traditional smoking, e-cigarettes should not be used by youth, non-smokers or by ex-smokers.

Bottom line: If you don’t smoke, don’t vape.