Despite the heated debate and evidences implying that e-cigarettes are far less harmful than smoking, a larger section of people than ever before is now convinced that they are just as harmful. We are in a month with New Year’s resolutions and if you are one of the world’s one billion smokers, your resolution may be to quit smoking. For some people though, this year’s quit attempt might involve an e-cigarette. However, the big question is, will there be as many quit attempts this year as there have been in the past with e-cigarettes? I’m not so certain.
These are battery-powered vaporizers that resemble the feel of traditional cigarette smoking. Users usually eat up a liquid or “e-juice” (usually a combination of nicotine and glycerin) to create the aerosol, or vapor. Some e-cigarettes are disposable and contain traditional cigarette-like appearance; while others imitate pens or even USB rechargeable memory sticks.A surplus of reusable, smoking kit alternatives are refillable with various cartridges or capsules of one’s favorite e-liquid. The act of using these e-cigarettes is known as vaping.
The dangers of vaping and associated health risks
E-cigarettes contain potentially addictive, dangerous toxins. Would it surprise you to know that they come in kid-friendly flavors like bubble gum, fruit punch, gummy bears, cotton candy and watermelon? With thousands of e-flavors to smoke and hundreds of new, trendy e-gadgets to smoke them with, we are officially in an era of high-tech smoking. The stakes are higher than ever as “Big Tobacco” recruits a new generation of smokers—our children. Almost all e-cigarettes have nicotine, and some of the e-liquids have caused acute poisoning in young children exposed to it. Nicotine is highly poisonous, especially in liquid form. Many experts feel that e-cigarettes poses an easy gateway to both traditional tobacco and pot smoking.
As for e-cigarettes that claim to be nicotine-free, The Food and Drug Administration(FDA) lab tests have, in some cases, shown otherwise. They are also capable of releasing other impurities, such as metals, known to be toxic or carcinogenic. Consuming even small amounts of liquid nicotine, or absorbing it through the skin, can be deadly. The rate of accidental poisonings from e-cigarette products, mostly of children under 5, has skyrocketed in recent years.
Currently, federal regulations do not mandate child safety caps on these products. Further studies have found that e-cigarettes contain toxic chemicals including an ingredient used in antifreeze formaldehyde of which many contain carcinogens. However, no governing body controls the amount of nicotine or particulates in nicotine, so there is no way for the consumer to really identify what they are buying. Therefore, when it comes to cautioning the public about the health risks of vaping, a recent CDPH campaign “Still Blowing Smoke” is sending a clear message: “E-cigarettes pose risks to health, turn kids into addicts, and give Big Tobacco big opportunities. Wake up.”
The campaign shares that e-cigarettes can contain even more particles (they call them “tiny balls of evil”) than tobacco smoke and can cause as much (or more) short-term inflammation in the lungs as regular cigarettes. Other concerns include asthma attacks, a decreased immune system, heart disease, irritation of the throat and eyes, cough, nausea, vomiting and dizziness. The anti-vaping campaign’s message continues: “Lots of people think of nicotine as fairly harmless, aside from the whole as-addictive-as-heroin thing.” Related health problems include increased risk for heart attack, stroke, high blood pressure, insulin resistance, and for kids and young adults under 25 changes to the prefrontal cortex, which affects decision-making.
In conclusion, at this point, no one can really tell the full impact of e-cigarettes on children’s health, but several things seem obvious. E-cigarettes are not healthy alternative to tobacco smoking and more studies are needed to fully understand the long term effects of vaping. Strict federal regulations are important to protect the health of our kids. For now, the bottom line is to talk to your kids about e-cigarettes. Due to peer pressure, kids tend to be more interested in what their peers have to say about it than parents. Talk to your children on how to resist peer pressure and make heathy decisions.
Model the behavior you’d like your children to emulate. In other words, don’t smoke if you don’t want your kids to. Teach your kids that ingesting potentially dangerous substances is harmful to their developing bodies and brains and can have long-term effects. Help your kids develop media awareness and savvy. Give them the opportunity to critically view and make conscious decisions about what they want to buy, making healthy choices.
As a parent, are you being a role model to your children?
Do we really care what our kids do when they are with their friends in our absence?