What is an e-cigarette?
E-cigarettes are battery-powered devices that allow users to inhale or vape aerosolized liquid (e-juice). There are many different types of e-cigarettes, commonly referred to as “vapes” or hookah pens, e-pipes or Juuls, among others. These products are the most commonly used tobacco product among youth!
So what do you need to know? Nearly all e-cigarettes contain nicotine. Nicotine is highly addictive and can harm the developing adolescent brain. The brain is still developing until about age 25, so when young people are exposed to nicotine it can lead to addiction and disrupt attention and learning. No amount of nicotine is safe for youth. There are hundreds of flavors that can be added to these e-cigarettes to make it “taste” better. The number of flavors is one reason the market for e-cigarettes shifted from helping adults quit smoking to attracting young people to vaping.
In the 2017 Minnesota Youth Tobacco Survey, 19.2% of high school students reported using an e-cigarette within the last 30 days. According to the US Surgeon General, there has been a 900% increase in e-cigarette use by high school students. Recent evidence suggests that, compared to youth who have never used them, youth who have tried e-cigarettes are twice as likely to start smoking in the future.
E-cigarettes are frequently marketed as being a “healthier” option than the traditional cigarette, but this is not true. E-cigarettes have been shown to be just as addictive as traditional cigarettes. The Surgeon General report on e-cigarettes states “the aerosol created by e-cigarettes can contain ingredients that are harmful to the public’s health, including: nicotine; ultrafine particles; flavorings such as diacetyl, a chemical linked to serious lung disease; volatile organic compounds such as benzene, which is found in car exhaust; and heavy metals, such as nickel, tin, and lead.”
So what can we do to keep our young people healthy and not use e-cigarettes? As we say at myHealth, staying well means staying well informed. Knowing what e-cigarettes are, their potential risks, and what they look like are the first steps in helping our young people stay healthy! The Center for Disease Control gives the following tips for chatting with a young person about vaping:
Know the facts.
- Get credible information about e-cigarettes and young people at https://e-cigarettes.surgeongeneral.gov/
Be patient and ready to listen.
- Avoid criticism and encourage an open dialogue.
- Remember, your goal is to have a conversation, not to deliver a lecture.
- It’s OK for your conversation to take place over time, in bits and pieces.
Set a positive example by being tobacco-free.
- If you use tobacco, it’s never too late to quit. For free help, visit smokefree.gov or call 1-800-QUIT-NOW.
Check out these great resources for more information on e-cigarettes and young people.