Safe to Vape? 5 Things Every Parent Needs to Know About E-cigarettes

Michael Green Center for Environmental Health e-cigarette vaping

In my Mom’s time, it wasn’t unusual for teenagers to take up smoking. At the time, the general public was not aware of the dangers from cigarettes, and the big tobacco companies worked for decades to keep people in the dark about their poisonous products.

Today teen tobacco use is down, but parents have a new smoking technology to worry about. The use of e-cigarettes is skyrocketing among young people: recent data shows that teens’ use of e-cigarettes tripled in just one year.

  1. From Big Tobacco to Big Vaping

Leading tobacco companies are the biggest players in the e-cigarette industry, so it’s no surprise that the industry misleadingly markets its products as a safe alternative to traditional cigarettes that produces nothing more than harmless water vapor. But independent experts say that chemicals from e-cigarettes may pose lifelong dangers, especially to young people. With little of this information getting out to the public, it is critical for parents to know about the risks their children face if they take up this addictive habit.

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  1. Where there’s smoke…there’s cancer?

A report by the Center for Environmental Health (CEH), A Smoking Gun: Cancer-Causing Chemicals in E-Cigarettes on testing of nearly 100 e-cigarettes and vaping products showed that almost ninety percent of the companies whose products were tested had one or more products that produced high levels of one or both of the cancer-causing chemicals formaldehyde and acetaldehyde. Cancer is not the only health hazard linked to exposure to these chemicals: both have also been linked to genetic damage, birth defects, and reduced fertility. The CEH testing found high levels of these chemicals even in e-cigarettes with no nicotine, dispelling the notion that nicotine-free vaping is harmless.

  1. Nicotine: the fix is in

Nicotine is known to cause serious reproductive health problems and thus may be especially dangerous for young women. A recent review of 50 years of data found that smoking during pregnancy significantly increased the risk of birth defects, including missing or deformed limbs, clubfoot, skull defects, and others. Nicotine can also damage adolescent’s developing brains: a 2014 study found that nicotine addiction led to impaired brain functioning in teens.

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  1. Smoking cessation or gateway?

The e-cigarette industry heavily markets their products as an aide to stop tobacco smoking. But experts suggest the opposite may be true: a 2014 study found that smokers who use e-cigarettes may be at an increased risk of not being able to quit smoking. According to Dr. Stanton Glantz of Stanford University’s Center for Tobacco Control Research and Education, numerous studies suggest that the use of e-cigarettes may create a “gateway effect” leading many young people to tobacco smoking.

  1. Younger children at risk

Poison control centers are seeing skyrocketing rates of accidental nicotine poisoning incidents from vaping products: from 2011 to 2014, the number of such cases increased by 13 times, with most cases involving children ages 5 and under. Kids are drawn to vaping products, since they are often marketed in candy or dessert flavors, and are sold without child-safe packaging. Last year we saw the tragic results of this reckless marketing: a one year-old child died after swallowing liquid nicotine.

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