While e-cigarette use in teens has gone down in recent years, teens are still vaping despite national policies aimed at reducing nicotine vaping among adolescents.
The latest data from 2022 shows the percentage of adolescents who reported they had ever vaped nicotine regularly was:
- 4.7% for 8th grade students,
- 8.7% for 10th grade students, and
- 15.0% for 12th grade students.
Nicotine vaping ranks among the most frequently abused of all substances in these grades.
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.
Chances are high that teens today 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 e-cigarettes and then having a frank conversation with your teen about the risks. Here are some facts to fuel your conversation:
8 Facts to Know About E-Cigarettes and E-Liquids
FACT #1: E-CIGARETTES CONTAIN HARMFUL CHEMICALS
According to smokefree.gov, e-cigarettes usually contain nicotine, which has been shown to harm brain development in not only children, but also young adults into their early 20s. In addition, e-cigarettes might also contain other dangerous substances, including heavy metals like lead, cancer-causing chemicals, and small particles that get inhaled deep into the lungs.
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 and addictive effects of nicotine, and the long-term effects of e-liquids are unclear.
FACT #3: Nicotine in e-liquids is neurotoxic
A neurotoxic substance, such as nicotine, is one that can affect the brain adversely and cause side effects.
E-liquids come in a variety of nicotine concentrations. Ingestion of even small amounts of nicotine 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.
When liquid nicotine is accidentally ingested, it can cause vomiting and seizures. It also can affect the heart.
FACT #4: DESPITE LAWS, E-CIGARETTES CAN STILL BE EASY TO GET
In 2019, the Tobacco 21 law went into effect, restricting the sale of tobacco products in the United States to those over 21 only. This includes e-cigarettes.
However, online and brick-and-mortar stores may not always ask for identification, and online vendors of vaping devices may fail to verify the age of purchasers at the time of sale.
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 harmless. If there are young children in the home, it’s important to keep e-cigarettes out of their reach, as many containers are not child-resistant.
In early 2020, the FDA restricted flavors in reusable e-cigarettes to just menthol and tobacco. But the flavor limitations don’t apply to disposable e-cigarettes, which are still on the market today.
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. A new product on the market is vape pens that look like highlighters.
FACT #7: THEY’RE BEING USED TO VAPE THC
Many young people also use vaping devices to consume cannabis products. In 2022, nearly 20% of 12thgraders reported that they vaped marijuana in the past year.
(Source: Monitoring the Future, NIH)
FACT #8: SEVERE LUNG INJURIES ARE ASSOCIATED WITH E-CIGARETTE USE
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported in February 2020 that more than 2,800 people have acquired an acute lung injury or died related to the use of e-cigarettes. Read this blog post for more information about vaping and its impact on teens’ 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.