With the most recent news on serious lung damage due to vaping I think it is important to give parents some information on what is being seen in clinic to be able to initiate conversations at home, identify symptoms and how to address concerns with teens in relation to vaping.
E-cigarettes, or vaping devices, became available in the U.S. marketplace around 2007 and marketed as a safer alternative to smoking tobacco. However, since 2014 they have been the most popular device used in U.S. youth for the ingestion of tobacco and have not lived up to their first intent. The popularity of these devices have increased in use by 78% in high school students during the last year, with a breakdown of 1 in 5 high school students and 1 in 20 middle school students currently using e-cigs.
The contents in the aerosol of e-cigs contain nicotine, other harmful substances such as: heavy metals, volatile organic compounds and ultrafine particles that can be inhaled deeply into the lungs. Inhalation of these chemicals can lead to shortness of breath, fever, coughing, dizziness and chest pain. These are the symptoms we are seeing in clinic with short and long term use. If symptoms continue to increase this can lead to hospitalization as noted in recent news reports, including three deaths, which hits too close to home.
While seeing a variety of use in adolescents ranging from those that have started to see others using these devices, those that have experimented themselves, to those that are experiencing nicotine overdose, the most common answer I get to why they are so popular is “I thought they were safer and could not get addicted.”
So why are so many kids attracted to these products? They are easily concealed due to no smoke, reduced odor and they are small and easy to hide. The size of the e-cig or vaping devices are consistent with a USB flash drive. The most popular manufacturer of these devices is JUUL. Interestingly, their CEO came out last week encouraging consumers to stop use of their products due to the risks. The pods used in the JUUL can contain up to as much nicotine as 20 cigarettes. Not only can they contain more nicotine, but the nicotine salts found in the solution allow for higher levels of nicotine to be inhaled more easily and with less irritation than traditional cigarettes. Which can make it feel easier to smoke, but surprising when they start to experience symptoms of overdose.
So what can you as parents do?
•Learn about the types of e-cigarettes and risks of the different modes of use
•Be a good example and stay tobacco-free yourselves
•Keep your home and car a tobacco free zone
•Use tip sheets available to you to talk to your teen and start the conversations early!! https://e-cigarettes.surgeongeneral.gov/
•Let your child know you want them to stay away from these products!