Parents, could your teens vape? – Cleveland Clinic


It looks like a flash drive and plugs into a laptop’s USB port like a flash drive, but it’s not a usb drive. It’s actually an electronic cigarette, or e-cigarette, and it’s been causing a stir in schools across the country since its introduction in 2015.

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Juul® is a sleek black vape pen that fits in the palm of your hand. Like other top-selling e-cigarettes on the market (including Vuse®, Logic®, Blu® and MarkTen®), it comes with small “juice” cartridges containing nicotine, fruity flavors and other chemical products. The cartridges snap into the device and the juice is heated when a user inhales, creating a vapor that delivers a quick hit of nicotine — and the pleasant feeling that cigarettes create, explains the pulmonologist. Humberto Choi, MD.

But unlike other types of e-cigarettes, Juul and the newer class of devices are discreet enough for teens to use in bathrooms, hallways and even school classrooms. They’re small and easy to hide, and the fruity-smelling smoke dissipates quickly. Not only did “juuling” become so popular that it became a verb, but it even inspired a series of hashtags on social media.

Although the companies that make these products say they are meant to be used as alternatives for adult smokers over the age of 21, teens are still getting their hands on them. In fact, use among teenagers is so widespread that the The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) officially authorizes all Juul-branded flavored e-cigarettes will be withdrawn from the market.

“The agency has devoted significant resources to reviewing products from companies that represent the bulk of the US market,” FDA Commissioner Robert M. Califf, MD, said in a statement. “We recognize that these make up a significant portion of the products available and many have played a disproportionate role in the rise of youth vaping.”

dr. Choi explains the potential health issues associated with vaping and the steps you can take to address them with your teens.

What do we know about the dangers of vaping?

Although there has been a significant decline in youth smoking over the past decade, the use of other tobacco products like e-cigarettes in this age group continues to rise. According to a Survey 2016.

In that same survey, 17% of middle- and high-school-aged users also said they turned to e-cigarettes because they thought theyre less harmful than other forms of tobacco, such as cigarettes.

Although there is still ongoing research into the long-term safety of e-cigarettes, health experts like Dr. Choi say caution is warranted. A recent study of the American Journal of Preventive Medicine found this E-cigarettes are a significant risk factor for respiratory diseases.

The risks of nicotine

We are also concerned about the rise of e-cigarettes and their potential risk of nicotine addiction. Due to the attractive design and appealing flavors, young people may not realize that they are in fact consuming high concentrations of nicotine (juices contain up to 5% nicotine), which is very addictive and detrimental to brain development.

Vaping vs Smoking

So what is the difference between vaping and smoking? The main thing that separates them is that one (smoking) burns tobacco, while the other (e-cigarettes) heats nicotine combined with flavorings and other chemicals in an aerosol. In either case, a significant amount of vapors and fumes enter your lungs.

Although vaping has been considered less harmful than smoking, that doesn’t mean it doesn’t come with its own set of long- and short-term risks.

“We know that in the short term they can cause inflammation of the airways and lungs,” says Dr Choi. “It will take some time to see the long-term consequences, but we expect it may cause damage similar to that of smoking cigarettes.” Experts also fear that teens who use e-cigarettes are more likely to start smoking tobacco.

Other Harmful Ingredients

It’s not just nicotine that can have a negative effect. E-cigarettes don’t contain tobacco or tar, but they contain “many other chemicals that can be harmful, sometimes in combination,” says Dr. Choi. Propylene glycol, for example, is an ingredient. It is commonly used as a food additive and considered safe for ingestion, but it is unclear whether it is safe to be inhaled for an extended period.

Another concern has been vitamin E – a supplement that can be taken orally and topically – but the evidence suggests it’s not something you want to coat your lungs with.

“I think the point here is that we can’t consider aerosols containing these chemicals to be safe when inhaled,” notes Dr. Choi.

Vaping and Marijuana

In addition to flavored juices and nicotine, vape cigarettes can also be used for smoking marijuana. In 2018, marijuana vaping among teens was found to have increased from 9.5% to 13.1% in one year.

Marijuana vaping is often done through the use of marijuana concentrate, which contains very potent amounts of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). According to the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), vape pens containing marijuana concentrate can be up to four times more potent than other types of marijuana. A recent Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) report also showed that the use of THC vaping products was linked to EVALI, a medical condition where a the person’s lungs are severely damaged.

“Most of these THC-containing products come from informal and unregulated sources, so they may contain unknown substances,” warns Dr Choi.

The vaping trend of CBD oil is also causing concern, primarily because it may also contain unregulated substances and harmful chemicals.

Turn your concerns into conversations

The truth is, your child may have already been exposed to the whole concept of vaping.

Whether or not you suspect your child may be participant or being pressured into vaping, Dr. Choi suggests bringing up the subject with your teens. “I think it’s important to have the conversation anyway,” he said. “There’s a good chance they’ll end up in a situation where someone is using e-cigarettes or they’re being offered to use one.”

Different people are drawn to e-cigarettes for different reasons, Dr. Choi notes, so there’s no one right way to discuss their potential dangers with your children. But understanding what might motivate them to try or talk about ways to respond to peer pressure can be a good start.

Keep an open and ongoing conversation

It’s normal for this conversation to happen over time, so don’t be discouraged if the first few conversations don’t seem productive. You can also try to join the conversation about e-cigarettes and vaping through everyday situations such as:

  • Walk past a cigarette store.
  • See an e-cigarette in a TV show or movie.
  • See an ad for an e-cigarette in a store or online.

Set a good example

Another good way to discourage your teen from vaping (or smoking) is to lead by example. Even taking steps to stop smoking in your own life can help influence your child’s future actions.

What if they’re already vaping?

If you suspect your teen may have discovered vaping, the best you can do is approach it with open communication. Before having the “conversation” about e-cigarettes, it may be a good idea to get a do together on the harms and risks of vaping. Coming armed with information might be the best way to distract your teen from it.

“The American Academy of Pediatrics actually recommends that pediatricians screen families and counsel patients about the health risks of e-cigarettes,” says Dr. Choi. “Unfortunately, the rise in e-cigarette use among teens is so concerning that we need to be more proactive.”

If you feel you are not coping, ask your doctor to discuss the the dangers of tobacco and e-cigarettes at your teen’s next date. Other resources like Office of the General Surgeon can also be useful for introducing your teen to information about vaping.


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