Imagine living in the 1930s for just a moment when life was much simpler. During this time, the standards for testing products were much lower, and we lacked the knowledge we possess today about dangerous products. Fast forward to the present, and with all we know about cigarettes, could you imagine a single physician that would support the idea that cigarettes are safe?
Well, in the 1930s, physicians promoted the addictive substance and approved of their use. For an extended period, physicians were the sole authority on health. Patients trusted their advice, and tobacco companies exploited this trust.
Today, we are facing something eerily similar with vaping. A new wave of tobacco products has swept the nation, causing the latest epidemic. What makes vaping even more terrifying, however, is that the marketing is geared toward teens. With fruity flavors and bright-colored labeling, it attracts the attention of our youth.
Parents may not have any idea their child is vaping. Cigarettes possess a strong odor, but vapes can be used discreetly without any attention brought to the teen who’s using it. It can be challenging for parents to determine if their child is using the product.
Marketing has also portrayed vaping as a safer alternative to teens than cigarettes, but the National Center for Health Research (NCHR) says otherwise. By October 2019, there were 18 confirmed deaths related to vaping. In addition to that number of the relatively new product, doctors described more than 1,000 vaping-related lung illnesses that stemmed from vaping.
While not all of these cases pertained to nicotine, it’s safe to say that vaping is dangerous. Based on their current information, doctors believe chemicals are the cause, not bacteria. However, more research is required to determine the root of the issue.
E-cigarettes come in several different forms, such as Juuls and vape pens. Brand-name products are advertised freely, but homemade versions also exist, which only makes vaping more dangerous. Some may contain higher levels of nicotine than cigarettes. While knowledge about the topic is still limited, we may again wonder, “Is vaping is a safer alternative for teens than cigarettes?”
What Are E-Cigarettes?
The products are designed to be similar to cigarettes, but they are battery-operated devices that include Juuls, vape pens, and vape mods. These brand-name products, which were once considered a safe alternative to cigarettes, contain high levels of nicotine. A focal point in their advertising was the success that people shared about quitting cigarettes through the use of vapes. Nicotine is an extremely addictive product, and vaping allows the deadly substance to be inhaled as a vapor instead of smoke. It is heated and released as smokeless.
Is Vaping Safer Than Cigarettes for Teens?
There is one key component that separates traditional cigarettes and vaping products ‒ e-cigarettes do not contain tobacco. It isn’t just tobacco, however, that causes cancer or other serious diseases. While traditional cigarette smoking comes with its own set of widely known risks, e-cigarettes and vaping products possess some of the same deadly chemicals.
Cigarette smoking can cause breast cancer, lung cancer, heart disease, emphysema, and other diseases that can kill you, but they typically wouldn’t develop in new smokers. It would take decades of smoking to see the disastrous effects. But in 2019, we have started to see the dangers associated with vaping. The seemingly harmless substance can cause serious lung damage, seizures, and other devastating symptoms after less than one year of use. While the reports indicated the possible risks, no one expected the damage could occur in such a short period.
Teens and Vaping: What to Know
With all the dangers lurking outside, vaping is another concern parents should keep an eye on. Unfortunately, the number of teens who have tried vaping has nearly quadrupled over a four-year span from 5 percent in 2011 to 19 percent in 2015, according to the National Center for Health Research.
The National Youth Tobacco Survey’s annual statistics in 2015 showed that nearly 3 million U.S. middle- and high-school students tried e-cigarettes in 2015. One in five middle-schoolers said they tried e-cigarettes but had never smoked conventional cigarettes.
Vaping among teens is concerning for several reasons, which include:
- The younger someone starts smoking, the more likely they will develop the habit. Ninety percent of smokers started before they were 18 years old.
- Chemicals in vaping might harm brain development in teens.
- Vaping has the potential to introduce young people to smoking who may have never tried it otherwise.
The significant rise in vaping among teens highlights the necessity to stop manufacturers and tobacco companies from targeting teens with bright colors and candy-like flavors. While some may find traditional tobacco products intolerable, they may be more likely to try a child-friendly flavor like bubblegum.
Vaping has even harmed those who are underage. The liquid is highly concentrated, and absorbing it into the skin or swallowing it is far more likely to require a visit to the emergency room. Poison control centers throughout the U.S. also regularly receive calls for e-cigarette exposure involving children.
The University of Kansas Health System Poison Control Center recently told KMBC News that it had received calls about children ingesting vaping pods.
“We’ve had kids eat the cartridges, drink the solutions and get sick,” Dr. Stephen Thornton, the center’s medical director, told the news station, which is located in Kansas City, Missouri.
According to KMBC News’ report, the center had received at least nine calls in a recent three-week period that were related to young children who were found with an e-cigarette or vaping pod. The children were not vaping, but the liquids they ingested or touched are toxic and should always be kept out of the reach of children.
The parenting website HealthyChildren.org writes that children who are 1 to 2 years old are at an increased risk of getting into e-cigarette products, but it advises parents of children under age 5 to be cautious.
In 2016, the Child Nicotine Poisoning Prevention Act went into effect. It requires that e-cigarette products be sold in child-resistant packaging that meets the standards and testing procedures of the Consumer Product Safety Commission.
Vaping is not a safer alternative for teens than cigarettes. If you know someone who is experimenting with any of these products, you must intervene and get the person help. Although more study is needed on the long-term effects of vaping, it is clear that the sooner someone stops vaping, the less harm they may cause.