E-cigarettes could be more dangerous than tobacco.
E-cigarette use is becoming common, especially among teens, who tend to believe that vaping — the use of e-cigarettes — is harmless. But a growing body of evidence shows that vaping may be even more dangerous than smoking. An e-cigarette is an electronic device that heats a pod of liquid, turning it into vapor that contains nicotine, flavorings and other substances. At issue is what chemicals are contained in the liquid that is being vaporized and inhaled.
Vaping can cause cancer.
While tobacco smoking has long been clearly linked to cancer, the health risks from vaping are just beginning to be understood because e-cigarettes are still unregulated. Here’s what we do know:
- An FDA analysis of e-cigarettes from two leading brands found that the samples contained carcinogens and other hazardous chemicals, including diethylene glycol, which is found in antifreeze.
- A report from Greek researchers found that using e-cigarettes caused breathing difficulties in both smokers and non-smokers
- A research group based in France found that e-cigarettes contain “potentially carcinogenic elements.”
- The British Medical Association and the World Health Organization have each issued warnings about the dangers that may be associated with the smoking devices.
Vaping is addictive.
Kids’ developing brains are more susceptible to addiction, and e-cigarettes essentially provide a smoke-free way to inhale nicotine, which is more addictive than heroin, cocaine or alcohol. The most frightening product seems to be the brand JUUL, which contains a dangerously high level of nicotine – more than twice what is found in traditional cigarettes and other e-cigarettes.
Vaping is targeted to kids.
It is a marketer’s dream, and a parent’s nightmare.
- Kids have a misconception that vaping is harmless.
- The pods come in a variety of kid-friendly flavors that are more attractive than the taste of tobacco.
- E-cigarettes are small and easy to hide. The JUUL looks like a flash drive and can be easily concealed in a pocket or hand.
- Vaping is easier to do indoors, such as in bedrooms, school bathrooms and even classrooms, without detection.
- Vaping has become quite common, and kids are exposed to classmates and images of famous people vaping, making it “cool.” Peer pressure drives kids to try it, and then they become easily addicted.
Vaping is a gateway to smoking.
A study published in Pediatrics suggests that adolescents who vape are six times more likely to become smokers in young adulthood.
Talk to your kids about the dangers of vaping, and if they are already addicted, offer them support through counseling. Their healthy future may depend on it.
- Kay Lofgren, MA, LCPC, case therapist, Northwestern Medicine Behavioral Health, contributed to this article.
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