The Very Real Dangers of Vaping: What You Need To Know

Did you know that the amount of nicotine in an e-cigarette nicotine pod is equal to the amount in a pack of 20 cigarettes? And that because the teen brain is still developing, teen users are more susceptible to the addictive nature of nicotine? Maybe that’s why the use of e-cigarettes among adolescents has skyrocketed in recent years, according to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), something that greatly alarms us at Westchester Health. To give parents some guidelines for helping their teens make good decisions regarding vaping, we offer this very informative blog on the subject by Cindee J. Ivker, MD, FAAP, a pediatrician with our Westchester Health Pediatrics group (excerpted below)

Vaping is becoming more and more popular with teens

Originally developed to help smokers quit the use of traditional cigarettes, vape pods have infiltrated the teen market to a huge degree. One is the main reasons? The variety of flavors which the manufacturers add to the base of the device to lure young people (such as chocolate, strawberry, cherry, mint, fruit medley, Virginia tobacco and crème brûlée). Teens like the taste and then get hooked.

Does your teen JUUL?

Cindee J. Ivker, MD, FAAP

JUUL is the most common nicotine pod product. It is small and discreet and can easily be hidden from the untrained eye. Some JUUL products resemble a computer flash drive and can even be used in a classroom setting without being detected. In fact, according to a 2018 Truth Initiative survey, almost 1 in 5 of middle and high schoolers (20%) have seen JUULs used in school. They can easily be purchased online, in retail stores and through friends. By law, people under the age of 18 (or 21 in some areas) should not be able to purchase any tobacco products, including JUUL, but there are few safeguards and so it happens all the time.

Dangerous metals and other harmful substances are in e-cigarettes

  1. Nicotine. No matter what tobacco and e-cigarette manufacturers might report, nicotine is a very harmful, very dangerous drug. It affects the brain, nervous system and heart. The larger the dose of nicotine, the more a person’s blood pressure and heart rate go up, which can cause an abnormal heart rate (arrhythmia). In rare cases, especially when large doses of nicotine are involved, arrhythmias can cause heart failure and death.
  1. Propylene glycol, the chemical that allows the nicotine to be vaped or inhaled, can cause lung and eye irritation. It is not clear what long-term effects propylene glycol has on the lungs.
  1. Aluminum, when inhaled, can cause a chemical-induced pneumonia. In teens, aluminum has also been reported to damage developing bone. 
  1. Cadmium, which is also in batteries, causes nausea, vomiting and diarrhea. 
  1. Silver causes breathing problems, lung and throat irritation, and stomach pain. 
  1. Lead when inhaled can result in nerve damage and digestive issues. 
  1. Diacetyl, also found in butter-flavored microwave popcorn, when inhaled can cause scarring of the lungs. “Popcorn lung” is the scarring of the tiny air sacs in the lungs and will result in wheezing, coughing and/or shortness of breath.
  2. Benzoic acid is a naturally occurring acid found in the tobacco plant. When inhaled, it can cause irritation to the nose, throat and lungs, which like diacetyl, may cause coughing, wheezing and/or shortness of breath.

The good news: suspension of sales of most flavored vapes

As of November 2018, JUUL Labs announced that it would suspend sales of most of its flavored e-cigarette pods in retail stores and would discontinue its social media promotions, facing mounting government pressure and a public backlash over an epidemic of teenage vaping, reports The New York Times.

What you can do

Once your child starts using a vape, it is hard to get them to stop. At Westchester Health, we strongly urge you to talk to your teen about smoking abstinence in any form, whether it’s a cigarette, e-cigarette, vape, JUUL or hookah. Detecting and monitoring the use of a JUUL or nicotine pod can be difficult. Their design makes the device easy to hide and its lack of exhaled smoke makes it hard to tell that your teen is actively using it.

Suggestions for talking to your teen

  1. Be direct and tell him/her why vaping is really damaging to their health
  2. Give them the facts about lung cancer, safety issues and the long-term effect on their brain, heart and lungs
  3. Reinforce that the use of vapes are addictive like other drugs and alcohol
  4. Stress the social issues and financial impact on users
  5. Teach them to say “NO”
  6. Come to us for help—at Westchester Health, we are here for you

For more information on the dangers of vaping and e-cigarettes, you might find these articles helpful:

Concerned that your teen is vaping or might start soon? Come see us.

If you’re worried that your child is vaping now or might start, please call (914) 232-1919 to make an appointment with one of our Westchester Health pediatricians. Together with you and your child, we will figure out the best way forward. If needed, we will also help your child find the right support network to stop vaping. As always, our #1 goal is to help your child stay healthy and happy, in any way we can. Whenever, wherever you need us, we’re here for you.

To read Dr. Ivker’s blog in full, click here.