The days we were worried about our kids smoking are over. Cigarettes aren’t that popular anymore.
And while this looks like great news, there’s still something else threatening our children’s health.
Electronic cigarettes and vapes are growing in popularity, especially among younger users. But can they be considered a safe alternative to smoking, or are they hiding some dangers? How can you protect your children? That’s what we are about to find out.
Vaping Statistics in the US
Dangerous or not, vaping definitely occupies a huge part of modern teens’ lives. It is enough to look at the stats to see how serious this phenomenon is. Just a few examples for you:
- While the smoking rates drop, the number of vapers gradually increases. It went from 7 million in 2011 to 35 million in 2016.
- Experts predict there will be around 55 million vapers in the US by 2021.
- The USA is one of the biggest vaping markets in the world.
- It is estimated that there are more female vapers than male ones.
- One of the recent surveys showed that 20.8% of high school students admitted they used electronic cigarettes in the preceding 30 days.
- 4.9% of middle school children reported using electronic cigarettes in 2018 in the past 30 days before the survey.
- More than 10 million teens are exposed to electronic cigarette advertisement through online sources and social pages.
- Experts say that younger vapers are the most attracted to flavors like cotton candy, tutti frutti, and sour gummies.
Now, it is natural that you might be not sure what vaping is. This is a relatively new phenomenon, with tons of different terms around it. Still, it’s pretty easy to understand once you have someone explain it to you. So, let’s start with the basics.
Vaping is a process of inhaling vapor created by a vaporizer. That’s it. Vapor appears when a device heats up the e-liquid (also known as e-juice or vape juice), causing it to vaporize.
All vaporizers have a similar construction: a battery, a heating element (a coil), and an e-juice tank or small reservoir. The battery powers the heating element, which comes into contact with the e-juice and makes it turn into vapor.
Oftentimes, teens start vaping merely because of peer pressure. There are tons of Instagram posts hashtagged “doitforjuul”, where teens vape. Though social media posts can seem harmless, they can cause pressure on teens to “look cool”, which might make them start vaping.
There are different types of vaporizers. Many of them come in a sleek design, which makes them even more popular among teens. The common vaporizer types include:
- Electronic cigarettes (also called cig-a-likes). They look like real ones but feature a plastic or metal construction. Usually disposable, they require vapers to throw away used devices.
- Vape pens. Small and sleek, these devices work with cartridges filled with e-juice. Some of them come pre-filled and need to be changed regularly; others allow users to fill them with their own e-liquid every time. Such devices are extremely popular among teens because they are very easy to use, relatively inexpensive, and allow young users to try a variety of flavors. Some popular names you might have heard of are JUUL, Rubi, Smok, etc.
- Pen mods. They are a bit larger but still might remind you of a pen. These devices are more powerful.
- Box mods. These look like small boxes. They are very powerful too. Some of them use external batteries and are not regulated, which makes them quite dangerous, especially when used by an inexperienced user.
A quick note: Some vaping devices are designed to work specifically with dry marijuana or cannabis oils/waxy concentrates, which means teens are not limited to vaping only the e-juice.
The statistics show that JUUL and its alternatives are most popular among teenagers and younger users. These devices don’t require much from a user: one just needs to start inhaling, and the device activates on its own and vaporizes the e-juice. Besides, such vapes are very easy to come by. But are they dangerous? If yes, what potential issues can they hide? Let’s find out.
Vaping Health Risks
Although vaping keeps drawing the interest of scientists day by day, there’s a lot we don’t know yet, including how dangerous it is.
Still, some facts are known and cannot be neglected. So, let’s look closer at what we do know and see what potential dangers may be hiding behind that sweet, thick vapor:
- Even though we know that vaping is safer than smoking (due to a smaller number of chemicals involved in the process), we have no information about more serious, long-term consequences. Everyone has seen those scary pictures of long-term smokers’ lungs, huh? But vaping is new and, hence, no similar illustration exist yet. Who knows what’s going to happen to vapers in 10, 15, or 20 years and in what condition their health will be after so many years of vaping?
- The majority of e-cigarettes contain nicotine, which is highly addictive and harmful. Nicotine is known to affect brain development and can cause cognitive issues. This matter is serious on itself, but when it comes to teens and their young, tender age, the things get even more serious.
- Vaping causes dehydration. Of course, it isn’t that severe, and one can easily fix it with a proper fluid intake. Still, when vaping too much, one can experience dry mouth, irritated throat, and even bloody sores in the mouth.
- Studies show that certain chemicals in electronic cigarettes (especially those with sweet, buttery flavors) can damage lung tissue, which, consequently, provokes inflammation and can cause respiratory problems.
- Some components in e-liquids (especially flavorings) can cause allergic reactions.
E-cigarette usage (including “juuling”) is linked to regular cigarette usage and even smoking marijuana. This means a kid who has never tried smoking is more likely to start after trying vaping.
You can see now that vaping is anything but harmless. And even though it requires to be studied more, we can surely say that vaping is not hundred percent safe.
Vaping Without Nicotine: How Safe Is It?
Is your teen trying to convince you that because he or she is vaping on a nicotine-free e-juice, it’s completely safe and harmless? It’s okay if you have doubts.
The truth is, even when nicotine is not involved, vaping isn’t 100% safe. Let’s take a look at the facts:
- Again, because vaping is so new, we don’t know anything about the long-term effects of it on one’s health. After all, any other component except for nicotine can turn out to be very harmful to your kid’s health.
- E-juice ingredients can cause allergies, lung tissue deterioration, perspiration problems, and so on. The thing is, even when nicotine is off the table, e-liquids still contain chemicals and flavorings that certainly have some effect on one’s health.
- Battery malfunctions still remain an issue, which means any vaping device is potentially dangerous.
Obviously, the risk levels will depend on the compound of each specific e-juice, the chemicals and flavorings used in it, and the frequency of vaping. But it is clear that even when nicotine isn’t in the game, your child should still be very careful with his or her vaping habits.
Despite the popular belief that vaping products don’t contain nicotine, this isn’t always the case. In fact, some e-juices presented as nicotine-free might still contain smaller dosages of this substance. Other potentially harmful components found in vape juices include heavy metals (like nickel, lead, and tin), diacetyl (which is linked to lung issues), carcinogens, etc.
Does Your Child Vape? Recognizing the Signs
Even though vaping devices are quite small, and vaping doesn’t smell like smoking, there are some ways to tell whether your child is vaping or not. Watch out for these signs:
- Sweet or unusual smells. Flavors are the reason many people start vaping, which is why e-juice manufacturers make sure their assortment is wide. Besides, flavorings are used to mask the nicotine. So, when you notice an unusual, sweet smell in your home, chances are your child is vaping in their room.
- Irritability. Teenagers tend to be moody, so this sign may be hard to spot. Still, if you notice that your kid is more annoyed or irritated than usual, this might be the sign of nicotine withdrawal.
- Increased thirst. Vaping oftentimes makes users thirsty since the process actually dehydrates the mouth and throat. So, if your teen is very thirsty (assuming it’s not after any type of physical activity), this might mean he or she has just been vaping.
- Bloodshot eyes. This is a rare side effect of vaping, but it’s still possible, especially if your kid is vaping marijuana.
- When marijuana is the case, your kid might also show increased appetite and thirst, mood swings, and shifts in behavior.
- Being insusceptible to flavors. There’s a condition in the vaping world called vaper’s tongue. It appears after routine, regular vaping, when one’s mouth becomes dried out and loses its flavor perception. In this case, children tend to add much more salt or spices to their food than usual.
- Weird pens or USB drives. Now, you already know that there are different types of vaping devices. Well, some of them look like simple USB drives or pens. But they still seem a bit too high-tech to be regular drives and pens. So, if you notice anything like that in your home, that may be your kid’s vaping device. Also, you may find strange chargers or weird spare parts, which don’t seem to go with anything in your house. These can belong to your child’s vaping equipment.
- Finding metallic wires and cotton balls/strings. Some vaping devices are more complex and have different tiny details.
- Occasional nosebleeds. This might seem like a strange symptom, but nosebleeds are closely linked to dry mouth. When vaping, the nose membrane dries out the same way mouth does, which can cause nosebleeds.
- Abstaining from caffeine. Regular vaping on nicotine e-juice can cause users to be anxious and twitchy. And because caffeine is a stimulant, it can enhance these conditions. And that doesn’t feel nice, which makes vaping teens cut back on their caffeine consumption. So, if you notice that your cappuccino-loving child has stopped enjoying his or her favorite beverage, this might be the sign.
In the majority of states, selling vaping devices and related accessories to kids under 18 (or under 21 in some states) is prohibited. Still, vape products are very easy to find online, and there are no such strict regulations (in fact, teens can easily get around them). Also, vaping products are cheaper than regular cigarettes (in the long run), which makes them even more accessible to teenagers.
Of course, all of these signs do not mean that you should start suspecting and accusing your child. These are merely the pointers you might want to take into consideration if you worry about your kid.
But if your theories are confirmed and you find out that your teen is vaping, don’t lose self-control. There are simple yet peaceful ways to deal with this issue.
How to Protect Your Child from Vaping Health Risks
Now, we all know that teens can be very stubborn, especially when their parents try to prohibit them from doing something. And when it comes to vaping, you need to be careful and approach the situation calmly.
There are certain steps you can take, of course, but you should keep in mind that some of them might not work. After all, children are different, and while some methods may be effective for some young vapers, they might not work just as great for your kid.
Still, they are definitely worth trying. So, if you have found out that your child is vaping, make a pause, take a breath, and do this:
- Study the matter. You are now aware of the potential risks of vaping, but you might want to research further. For instance, what makes it so attractive to teens? How manufacturers manage to persuade children that vaping is cool? Knowing things like that might help you understand your child better, which, consequently, can help you create a healthy and understanding dialogue with them.
- Talk to your child. Let them know that you are against vaping, but don’t lecture. Instead, explain the reasons why you think vaping is harmful. Tell your child about the potential risks and health issues, studies you’ve read, and other info concerning the dangers of vaping. Don’t just prohibit vaping “because it’s bad”. May your child get familiar with the facts about vaping and reach their own conclusions.
- Don’t push it. Your conversation about vaping doesn’t have to turn into a long monologue. It’s wiser to break it into ideas and share them one by one during some period of time. This will give your child a chance to hear you, plus the information will sink in better.
- Try to be patient. Chances are, your teen will not want to listen to you at first. This is when you really need to keep your emotions under control. Instead of losing your temper or yelling, let it go for the moment to get back to it next time.
- Wait for when they are ready to listen. Teenagers aren’t always in a mood for lectures from their parents (or even for simple conversations). That’s why you need to pick the time carefully, when your son or daughter is relaxed and open for conversation.
- Create a safe environment for your kid. It is important for children to feel safe. Your son or daughter needs to know that it’s okay to talk to you about vaping. Only this way you both will be able to have an honest conversation. Besides, when your child feels safe, there are more chances that he or she will open up to you more about the matter.
Vaping is popular among teenagers for many reasons. However, the most common one is flavor. There are e-juices flavored like popcorn, milkshakes, candy, desserts, fruit, cotton candy, chocolate, etc. The list goes on and on. This makes vaping attractive for younger users.
What’s dangerous about vaping is that manufacturers design the labels and packaging in a special style for marketing purposes. There are many e-juice bottles and vape device packaging looking like candy or juice boxes. Such a design tends to attract kids and teenagers.
- https://wvutoday.wvu.edu/stories/2018/10/09/wvu-researcher-delves-into-cardiovascular-effects-of-vaping – Additional info on the link between vaping and cardiovascular disease.
- https://www.urmc.rochester.edu/encyclopedia/content.aspx?contenttypeid=1&contentid=4704 – Extra data on vaping: potential issues, link to nicotine, etc.
- https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/29485005 – The difference between vaping and smoking and which one is more dangerous.
- https://www.fda.gov/tobaccoproducts/labeling/rulesregulationsguidance/ucm394909.htm – More about FDA’s actions concerning the flavored tobacco products.
- https://www.fda.gov/tobaccoproducts/labeling/productsingredientscomponents/ucm456610.htm – FDA’s regulations concerning the electronic nicotine delivery systems.
- https://news.psu.edu/story/527326/2018/07/03/impact/medical-minute-hazards-juuling-or-vaping – The phenomenon of “juuling” and what it stands for.
- https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5693960/ – A study on e-cigarette usage during the time span of 3.5 years (by Riccardo Polosa, Fabio Cibella, Pasquale Caponnetto, Marilena Maglia, Umberto Prosperini, Cristina Russo, and Donald Tashkin).
- https://e-cigarettes.surgeongeneral.gov/documents/SGR_ECig_ParentTipsheet_508.pdf – An informational tip sheet for parents.
- https://blog.frontiersin.org/2018/02/07/health-e-cigarette-risk-danger-flavor/ – More about e-liquids and how they affect vapers’ health.
- https://www.nytimes.com/2014/03/24/business/selling-a-poison-by-the-barrel-liquid-nicotine-for-e-cigarettes.html?partner=rss&emc=rss&_r=0 – More about liquid nicotine in vape juices.
- https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/electronic-cigarettes-good-news-bad-news-2016072510010 – Potential benefits of vaping compared to regular cigarettes.
- https://www.wfm.noaa.gov/pdfs/ParentingYourTeen_Handout1.pdf – Extra positive strategies to create a good relationship with your teen daughter or son.