This month, the FDA is working to regulate electronic cigarettes… and with good reason. Today, one in four teens are using these products to vape.
The new rule gives the FDA authority to regulate all tobacco products including e-cigarettes, hookahs, cigars and pipe tobacco. The rule should help to prevent youth from initiating tobacco use. Sales of all tobacco products under the age of 18 are now prohibited in person and online.
Why the new rules? Is vaping as dangerous to kids as cigarette smoking? What are the risks?
E-cigarettes are electronic nicotine delivery systems. They produce an aerosolized mixture of a flavored solution (bubble gum, fruit punch, chocolate, etc.) which contains nicotine which is then inhaled by the user. The solution can contain anywhere from 0-36 mg/ml of nicotine.
What many vapers don’t know is that e-cigarettes contain harmful chemicals and carcinogens. The nicotine in e-cigarettes is addictive and has neurotoxic effects on developing brains.
Elizabeth Walenz, MD
Recent studies show adolescents who vape are 6 times more likely to smoke cigarettes in early adulthood.
Studies looking at teens as they first enter high school and then upon graduation, show 40 percent of teens who used e-cigarettes in high school started smoking tobacco cigarettes once they turned 18 and it became legal to buy them – that’s compared to 10 percent of teens who never vaped.
Before e-cigarettes hit popularity, we were doing pretty well at discouraging teen smoking. Cigarette smoking among high school students dropped to the lowest levels since 1991: 28 percent in 1991 to 11 percent in 2015. However, 24 percent of high school students today report using e-cigarettes, surpassing traditional cigarette use.
E-cigarettes were originally marketed as a safer way to smoke and possibly to help current smokers to quit. Unfortunately, this has not proven to be true. E-cigarettes are providing a bridge for teens to get used to the flavor of tobacco with the sweetened flavoring and then gradually transition to cigarettes.
Once exposed to nicotine through e-cigarettes, smokers can become dependent upon it. They may move from vaping to other forms of nicotine, including cigarettes.
We know tobacco is dangerous for our kids and teens, whether they are smoking or just exposed to it second- or third-hand. E-cigarettes are not harmless.
What is a parent to do?
- Talk to your teen about the dangers of e-cigarettes and hookahs as well as chewing tobacco and cigarettes.
- Be a role model for your children and don’t smoke.
- Ask your teen about friends and smoking. Be open to questions that they may have to help dispel myths they may have heard at school.
Many of us as parents think “not my kid, not my school,” but vaping is here and it is not just adults that are trying it.
If you have questions about how to talk to your kids about smoking, talk with your Methodist Physicians Clinic pediatrician.
|Dr. Elizabeth Walenz is a pediatrician now seeing patients at
Methodist Physicians Clinic Regency.
Contact Dr. Walenz at MethodistPR@nmhs.org.