While adolescent use of tobacco has steadily declined over the past five decades, e-cigarettes are threatening to snare a new generation with nicotine addiction. In 2018, more than 1 in 5 high school seniors and 1 in 12 eighth graders reported vaping in the past month, as compared to a near-zero use in 2011.
E-cigarettes are not a safe alternative to cigarette smoking. These products are especially harmful to adolescents, as they are extremely addictive and can harm the development of the adolescent brain. One cartridge contains as much nicotine as a pack of cigarettes.
The liquid found in e-cigarette cartridges is not currently regulated by the U.S. Food & Drug Administration, so long-term health effects on users and bystanders still are unknown.
What you can do
- Talk openly with your children and teens about the dangers of e-cigarettes.
- These devices also go by the names e-cigs, vapes, vape pens, mods and tanks, so pay close to attention if you hear any of these terms from your teen or adolescent.
- Monitor your teen’s online activities. Although it is illegal for e-cigarettes to be sold to youth under age 18, they can be ordered online.
- Be aware of what e-cigarettes look like. Many brands resemble a sleek USB flash drive, are easy to conceal in a pocket, and may even have a wrap or skin to disguise them. Youth can take a puff in the bathroom, on the bus or even in the classroom.
Talk to your child’s pediatrician if you have further concerns or if you think your teen might be using e-cigarettes. You may be surprised to discover how common they really are in middle and high school classrooms, hallways and restrooms.
Emily M. Cole, MD, is a pediatrician with Carolina Pediatrics of Greenville. Learn more about Carolina Pediatrics of Greenville or find another Prisma Health Children’s Hospital–Upstate pediatrician near your work or home here. You also can call 1-844-447-3627 for help connecting with a pediatrician.