Cincinnati Children's Blog

Parents of Teens: 8 Facts To Know About Nicotine in E-Cigarettes

Parents of Teens: 8 Facts To Know About Nicotine in E-Cigarettes

The number of teens using e-cigarettes is staggering. According to the NIH, 9.5% of 8th graders, 14% of 10th graders and 16% of 12th graders used them in the prior month of their reporting.

What’s more, the Journal of the American Medical Association found that e-cigarette use in teens is associated with an increased risk for cigarette initiation and use, particularly among low-risk youths. While vaping might be a way for some adults to stop smoking, for teens, it’s a way to start.

So the chances are high that our teens have been exposed to e-cigarettes, thought about using them, or have used them. So what can parents do to reduce the likelihood that their teens will turn to vaping? As a pharmacist in the Drug and Poison Information Center, I recommend learning everything you can about them and then having a frank conversation about the risks. Here are some facts to fuel your conversation: 

8 Facts to Know About E-Cigarettes and E-Liquids

FACT #1: Manufacturers are not required to report the ingredients

Because manufacturers are not required to report the contents of their products, they could be filled with anything. When the NIH polled teens who use e-cigarettes, 66% of them believed that only flavoring is in them. However, according to, e-cigarettes usually contain nicotine. 

FACT #2: Nicotine is highly addictive

Nicotine is one of the most addictive substances and is incredibly difficult to stop. Dependence hinges on various factors such as age, family or peer influence, genetics, medical history and more. The adolescent brain is highly susceptible to the adverse effects of nicotine, and the long-term effects of e-liquids are unclear.

FACT #3: Nicotine in E-liquids is neurotoxic

E-liquids come in a variety of nicotine concentrations. Ingestion of even small amounts in some versions have the potential to be fatal to a small child. Further, it can be absorbed through the skin. If this happens when refilling the e-cigarette, it has the potential to be incredibly dangerous. 

FACT #4: Despite laws, they’re relatively easy to get

As of August 2016, the FDA made it illegal for retailers to sell e-cigarettes to people younger than 18. And it is now illegal in the State of Ohio to give or sell tobacco products, including e-cigarettes to anyone under the age of 21.

However, the American Academy of Pediatrics states that online and brick-and-mortar stores don’t always ask for identification.

FACT #5: They come in bright colors and flavors

The bright colors, flavors and smells of e-liquids can be appealing to both teens and small children, making them seem innocuous.  If there are young children in the home, it is important to keep e-cigarettes out of their reach, as many containers lack children resistant mechanisms. Some states are starting to ban flavors, such as California.   

FACT #6: They’re discreet

It’s difficult to tell when someone is using an e-cigarette, because they won’t smell like tobacco. Further, they can look like a pen, key fob, or flash drives.   

FACT #7: They’re being used in different ways

Some teens have been “dripping” with e-cigarettes. This vaping method involves dripping the e-cigarette liquid directly on the hot coils of the apparatus, which can produce smoke that is more potent than normal. It may also create a higher than normal temperature of the e-liquid.

A higher e-liquid temperature can produce more harmful chemicals inhaled into the lungs, including formaldehyde and acetaldehyde, which are carcinogenic. Formaldehyde can also cause asthma, contact dermatitis, as well as adverse side effects on the central nervous system. This can include things such as mood changes, depression, headache, insomnia, irritability and attention and memory issues.

FACT #8: There is currently an outbreak of lung injuries associated with e-cigarette products

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report that as of October 29, 2019, 1,888 people have acquired an acute lung injury or died related to the use of e-cigarettes. 14% of them were under the age of 18. Read this blog post for more information about vaping and the impact on teen’s lungs.


If you have any concerns about your child being exposed to nicotine or any other harmful substance, please call your Drug and Poison Information Center at 1-800-222-1222. We can learn more about your child, the situation, and walk you through what to do next.

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