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Get the Facts on Youth E-Cigarette Use

E-cigarettes are becoming increasingly popular among kids, teens and young adults. A recent study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported that over 2 million middle and high school students had used e-cigarettes. While medical research is still being conducted on the long-term damage of e-cigarette use for adults, it is clear that e-cigarettes should not be used by children, teens, or young adults.

What are e-cigarettes?

E-cigarettes, also known as e-cigs or vape pens, are a type of battery-operated device that use heat to turn liquid into a breathable aerosol. They come in different shapes and sizes but can look like cigarettes or pens. Sleeker versions that look like USB drives are easier for students to conceal or use in classrooms or bathrooms. Due to the different flavors available, they are popular with children and teens. According to the CDC, more than 8 out of 10 youth aged 12-17 years who use e-cigarettes said they use flavored cigarettes. More than 9 of every 10 young adult e-cigarette users said they use e-cigarettes flavored to taste like menthol, alcohol, candy, fruit, chocolate, or other sweets.

Why are e-cigarettes dangerous for kids, teens, and young adults?

Most e-cigarettes contain some amount of nicotine. “Nicotine is a highly addictive drug that is especially harmful to the developing brain,” says Selena Raines, DO, St. Claire HealthCare Primary Care physician. “Your brain continues to develop until the age of 25. Nicotine use in childhood, adolescence, and young adulthood can result in addiction and harm parts of the brain that control attention, learning, mood, and impulse control.”

Nicotine isn’t the only dangerous substance related to e-cigarette use. Ultrafine particles; cancer-causing chemicals; heavy metals such as nickel, tin, or lead; or flavoring such as diacetyl (which has been linked to a serious lung disease) could all be found in e-cigarette aerosol.

There are other risks associated with e-cigarettes. Serious injuries have occurred after malfunctioning, causing fires or small explosions. E-cigarette liquid has even poisoned children and adults after ingesting, breathing, or absorbing it through their skin or eyes.

What can parents do?

“Talk to your child about e-cigarettes and the harm they can do whether they have nicotine in them or not,” says Dr. Raines. “Let them know you care about their health and are against them using any type of tobacco products, including e-cigarettes. The CDC’s Parent Tip Sheet is an excellent resource to help you prepare talking points and answers to your child’s questions. If you feel like you need some support, you can schedule an appointment with your child’s healthcare provider and let them explain the risks of e-cigarette use.”

Dr. Raines also recommends that parents should set a good example by not using ANY type of tobacco products, including e-cigarettes. St. Claire HealthCare offers smoking cessation classes for those interested in quitting. These classes are hosted by a Tobacco Treatment Specialist who is certified by the American Lung Association. Free NicoDerm CQ patches are available to Rowan and Bath county residents. For more information on quitting for good, contact Ashley Gibson at 606.783.7561 or email at ashley.gibson@st-claire.org.

Click here for more information about Dr. Raines or to request an appointment.