Vaping is becoming an increasing epidemic among teens. In 2018, e-cigarette use nearly doubled in high school students.
Vaping is the act of inhaling and exhaling the aerosol, often referred to as vapor, which is produced by an e-cigarette or similar device. The term is used because e-cigarettes do not produce tobacco smoke, but rather an aerosol, often mistaken for water vapor, that actually consists of fine particles.
Many of these particles contain varying amounts of toxic chemicals, which have been linked to heart and respiratory diseases and cancer.
Electronic cigarettes (e-cigarettes) are battery-powered devices that can deliver nicotine and flavorings to the user in the form of an aerosol.
Most have a battery, a heating element, and a place to hold a liquid or nicotine salts. Flavors that make e-cigarettes so appealing can have toxic effects themselves, although they are GRAS (generally regarded as safe) when ingested in foods or drinks.
E-cigarettes come in a wide variety of shapes and sizes; mini (often called cig-a-like), mid-size, vape pens, vape pod systems like JUUL, e-hookahs, e-cigars, advanced personal vaporizers or mods; even ones shaped to look like pens and usb drives.
E-cigarettes are unsafe for kids, teens and young adults for many reasons. Nicotine can harm the developing adolescent brain. E-cigarettes contain nicotine. Nicotine addiction that occurs with e-cigarette use may lead to transition to use of combustible tobacco products. Addiction itself, whether to nicotine or other drugs, can drive undesirable behaviors.
JUUL is a rapidly growing type of e-cigarette that became available in the US in 2015. It now accounts for about 72 percent of the market share of vaping products in the United States.
JUUL is particularly appealing to adolescents and young adults because it has a slim design shaped like a USB flash drive (which makes it easier to hide).
It comes in different colors, and a wide variety of flavors, including many that appeal to kids.
JUUL does not emit large smoke clouds, making it optimal for discreet use.
Not only is nicotine high in JUUL pods, it is present in a benzoic acid salt rather than a free base which increases the rate of nicotine delivery and decreases the harsh sensation in the mouth and throat.
The JUUL nicotine refill (“pods”) contain as much nicotine as a pack of 20 regular cigarettes. Average pod length varies but can last up to 200 puffs.
What can parents do?
- Do not use any tobacco products
- Talk with your kids about the dangers of smoking and the importance of avoiding any tobacco use (conventional cigarettes or e-cigarettes)
- Educate your kids that e-cigarettes contain nicotine, a HIGHLY addictive substance
- Advocate for comprehensive tobacco prevention policies (that include e-cigarettes)
Noting this unprecedented spike in e-cigarette use in youth, in December 2018, the US Surgeon General issued an advisory for parents, teachers and health professionals about the negative health consequences of e-cigarettes in kids.