Are your kids vaping? That’s the latest term for smoking electronic cigarettes or e-cigs. I am long past having teens in the house, but the latest news about e-cigs caught my eye. Teen vaping has surpassed regular tobacco use and you should be concerned about this.
A press release from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration notes that in just one year middle and high school students have tripled their use of e-cigs. The organizations note that “current e-cigarette use (use on at least 1 day in the past 30 days) among high school students increased from 4.5 percent in 2013 to 13.4 percent in 2014 rising from approximately 660,000 to 2 million students.” The increase among middle-school students went “from 1.1 percent in 2013 to 3.9 percent in 2014 – an increase from approximately 120,000 to 450,000 students.”
We know from decades of research that nicotine is not good for anyone, but it is particularly not good for children. But since manufacturers of the e-cigs tout their safety over regular tobacco, I decided to ask Dr. David Moromisato, Chief Medical Officer at Banner Children’s at Cardon Children’s Medical Center, what effect nicotine in any form can have on children.
Teenagers’ brains, despite their collective feeling that they know more than adults, are still developing. Nicotine can thwart this development. Moreover, Dr. Moromisato told me that “research has also shown that exposure to nicotine in early adolescence enhances the nicotinic ‘reward’ feeling during adulthood. It is therefore surmised that early exposure to smoking is likely to set the stage for long-term addiction and perhaps it also explains why addiction to nicotine is so prevalent, worldwide.”
And addiction to nicotine may not be the only stage set during this important time of brain development. “The brain begins craving the ‘high’ of nicotine, and desires other rewards, setting up for other types of addictions,” Dr. Moromisato said.
Nicotine can also be a poison. Because e-cigarettes are not closely regulated, the amount of nicotine in them can vary. Signs of nicotine poisoning include nausea, vomiting and seizures. Moreover, if a child gets hold of the liquid nicotine canisters and ingests its contents, he or she could die. Dr. Moromisato told me that a teaspoon of nicotine could be fatal to a young child.
Vaping is probably on the rise because the e-cigarettes not only attempt to duplicate regular cigarettes but they go one step further – they come in all sorts of flavors. Kids vaping these sweet flavors may not even realize they are also consuming nicotine.
E-cigs also do not have the same telltale tobacco odor as regular cigarettes so teens can get away with smoking a lot more and a lot easier than teens who smoke tobacco cigarettes are able to.
Bottom line – nicotine is nicotine no matter how it’s delivered and while smoking among teens is declining – vaping is on the rise.