Are You Surprised that Vaping, Just Like Cigarette Smoking, is Unhealthy? It is. Especially for Teens.
For some reason, vaping (smoking e-cigarettes) doesn’t seem as dangerous as smoking traditional cigarettes. What’s so bad about smoking flavored vapor air?
Even though vaping seems like the innocent cousin in this scenario, it still leads to side effects like nicotine addiction, exposure to harmful chemicals, tooth decay, lung disease, and decreased attention span.
And the list goes beyond these known side effects, according to Metro Health – University of Michigan Health pulmonologist Dr. Terrance Barnes.
“Many of the effects of e-cigarettes are still not known,” says Dr. Barnes. “Both the long-term and the short-term impacts are still being researched, but there are many documented risks.”
According to the Centers for Disease Control e-cigarettes are unsafe for kids, teens and young adults.
Many Middle and High Schoolers Have Vaped in the Past Year. Your Kid Could be One of Them
E-cigarettes are electronic devices that heat a liquid to produce a vapor, or an aerosol, that is inhaled by the user. It’s often referred to as vaping.
Vaping is super appealing to teens. It seems like a cool, grown up thing to do, and it doesn’t have that strong odor like tobacco cigarettes.
The kid-friendly flavors that many e-cigarettes come in are appealing to children. Most youth e-cigarette users say the primary reason they began using e-cigarettes was because of the flavors.
If you think your child hasn’t heard about—or worse, tried—vaping, you could be in for a rude awakening.
A 2018 study conducted by the University of Michigan found an alarming rise in the number of teens who tried vaping in the year prior. Nearly two in five students in 12th grade had vaped in the past year. Even 17.6% of 8th graders had vaped.
There is clearly an urgent need to educate children, teens and parents about the dangers.
Think your teen could be vaping? Here are some signs your teen is vaping:
- They have an unidentifiable sweet scent
- You find e cigarette components at home. See what they could look like here.
- Your child is uncharacteristically moody or irritable.
- They exhibit signs of dry mouth: coughing, mouth sores, sore throat
Vaping Can Cause Tooth Decay, Lung Issues and Decreased Attention Spans
The CDC reports the vapor in e-cigarettes exposes both the user and those around them to harmful substances like volatile organic compounds, cancer-causing chemicals and heavy metals. Even some flavorings are linked to serious lung disease.
“The negative health effects start from the first moment the vapor of an e-cigarette is inhaled,” Dr. Barnes points out. “The damage compounds and expands with continued use.”
Dr. Barnes paints a picture of the impact an e-cigarette can have from the immediate moments of inhalation to months or years later. He details the different areas of the body that are affected and the varying levels of severity children and teens face. We started with the mouth.
“In the immediate minutes after vaping, individuals may experience dry mouth. After time, continued vaping can actually change the bacteria in a person’s mouth, leading to plaque buildup and tooth decay,” he explains.
From there, the potentially harmful vapor travels down to the lungs and can cause a range of effects from mild coughing and shortness of breath to more serious breathing difficulties and wheezing.
“There are reports that vaping has been associated with spontaneous collapsed lung, which can cause a fairly abrupt onset of shortness of breath and chest pain. It may require a tube to re-expand the lung.”
Dr. Barnes adds that the oily/fatty droplets in vaping liquid can lead to a rare type of pneumonia. Vaping can also lead to a condition called popcorn lung, which is similar to asthma but is generally irreversible. In the most severe cases, vaping can cause rapid onset respiratory failure that may require a lung transplant, and there have been reports of deaths.
Think the danger stops there? It doesn’t.
Vaping impacts the brain.
“There is evidence that nicotine can harm the developing brains of children and teens. It is associated with decreased attention, struggles with learning and difficulty in managing moods and impulse control,” Dr. Barnes details. “These problems may even persist into adulthood.”
With continued use, the nicotine in e-cigarettes can change the connection between brain cells, making it more difficult to form memories or learn new skills.
Talk to Your Kids About Vaping
“It’s extremely important that parents talk to their kids about vaping and e-cigarettes,” emphasizes Dr. Barnes. “Ask them if their friends use them and if they’ve been tempted to try them. Tell them about the dangers and let them know it’s okay to say no.”
To learn more, the CDC has a comprehensive list of facts, detailing the risks of e-cigarettes for kids, teens and young adults. If you know or suspect your child is using e-cigarettes, contact his or her primary care physician to discuss ways to approach your child and seek treatment.