I recently had the opportunity to go to a high school and present to the parents and students about the dangers of electronic cigarettes. The presentation went great and I was thankful to hear a lot of compliments from parents, teachers, and the kids.
The e-cigarette is very popular among our youth and unfortunately, our youth don't understand the dangers of these products. The Nebraska Youth Tobacco Survey found that 9.4% of youth had smoked an e-cigarette in the past 30 days. 36% of youth in Nebraska have tried e-cigarettes. I wanted to share some of my information on here about e-cigarettes so that people could maybe learn a little more about them.
What do electronic cigarettes do? Well they produce aerosol by heating a liquid that usually contains nicotine, flavorings, and other chemicals that help produce the aerosol. There are a lot of different kinds out there: e-pipe, e-cigar, large tank devices, medium tank devices, rechargeable e-cigarettes, and disposable e-cigarettes. The image below from CDC shows some of these. The rechargeable ones are very popular among youth and can be easily hidden in the palm of your hand.
What is in the aerosol that you inhale? This is a question I get a lot. A lot of times people think it is just harmless water vapor but that is far from the truth. E-cigarette aerosols contain harmful substances such as, nicotine, ultrafine particles that damage the lungs when inhaled, heavy metals, cancer causing chemicals and flavorings. Some of these flavorings can be very harmful to the user like Diacetyl which is linked to Popcorn Lung.
Some stores will sell products that say they have FDA approved ingredients or have GRAS (Generally Recognized As Safe) on their labels but just because it is an FDA approved ingredient doesn't mean that that ingredient was meant to be inhaled, example - Kool Aid. FDA does not fully regulate e-cigarettes yet so you don't know if what they have put on the label is honestly what is in them. This is true with the labels that say nicotine free as well. A lot of studies found that even the e-juices that say no nicotine, do actually contain nicotine.
Youth need to know that these companies are gearing their products towards them. They are trying to get more teens to smoke e-cigarettes because you are 7x more likely to start smoking regular cigarettes within a year of smoking e-cigarettes (Preventative Medicine Journal). The human brain is still developing until age 25. This makes their brain more sensitive to the rewards of nicotine causing addiction to happen. E-cigarette companies are having flavors that are geared towards youth. Some examples are apple juice, bug juice, cinnamon roll, mango, and more. Below is a picture of what a regular food product looks like compared to the e-juice of that flavor. These aren't flavored that way for the middle age person to help them quit smoking, this is geared towards our youth.
The smoking rate in the United States is decreasing so tobacco companies are trying to find a way to get more people to smoke. They know that the youth are great targets since their brains are still developing and are more likely to become addicted. 9 out of 10 smokers started by the time they were 18 (CDC). Make sure that you and your youth are educated on the dangers of e-cigarettes.
We know within a year they are 7x more likely to start smoking regular cigarettes and another study found that 30.7% of e-cigarette users started smoking within 6 months of starting the e-cigarettes compared to the 8.1% of non-users that started to smoke (National Institute on Drug Abuse).
We know that they are addictive and we need more studies to find out just how dangerous they are but we do know that the only thing that should be going into your lungs is clean air.
I hope this gave you a quick overview of what e-cigarettes are and how dangerous they are. I am hoping to post more educational information on this blog to help keep our community educated. If you have any questions regarding e-cigarettes please feel free to contact me.