E-cigarettes may appear to be a safer way to smoke, but they are just as dangerous for children. In fact, data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show an alarming rise in the number of e-cigarette related calls to poison control centers, rising from one call per month in September 2010 to 215 per month in February 2014.
With increased advertising and a multitude of flavors like cotton candy and cherry, it's no wonder why “vaping” or e-cigarettes may be appealing to children and teens. However, just like cigarettes, e-cigarettes contain poisonous ingredients. This includes a flavored nicotine solution and humectants, substances that helps retain moisture and produce a vapor which is inhaled.
Humectants can also cause other problems, including upper respiratory and eye irritation. Heating humectants through e-cigarettes can also create carcinogenic compounds, which can cause cancer. Like regular cigarettes, e -cigarettes carry the same harmful effects of nicotine, including:
- decreased memory/alertness
- decreased appetite
- increased intestinal activity
- increased heart rate and blood pressure
- increased depression
Additionally, the safety and effects of the flavoring when heated and inhaled is unknown at this point and researchers also say it's too early to know the long-term effects of e-cigarettes. “Many teens, and even adults, think e-cigarettes are harmless but they are not,” says Rachel Dawkins, M.D., medical director of the Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital General Pediatric & Adolescent Clinic. Scientists are just beginning to see the dangerous effects of vaping, such as cancer. Also, the safety and effects of the flavoring when heated and inhaled is unknown at this point and researchers also say it's too early to know the long-term effects of e-cigarettes.
Also unknown are the effects of secondhand vapor from e-cigarettes or the effects of the vapor mixing with other household substances that can become irritants or cause cancer. Previous studies have shown, however, that nicotine exposure during adolescence has long-term effects in the brain, including cell damage that can lead to changes in behavior.
What Parents Can Do
Whether it goes by the name e-cigarette, vaping, e-juice or hookah - these smoking devices can all be harmful for your child, so parents should recognize what these look like. Some of these devices may look like an actual cigarette, an ornate pipe and others can look as simple as pen – potentially making the device easy to hide. Parents should also remember to beware of the e-juice or e-liquid flavors that can be found with these devices and disguised in small containers.
If parents use these products, they are strongly recommended to quit and keep all smoking accessories out of reach, especially for younger children.
“Most importantly, parents should talk to their children about the dangers and harmful side effects of e-cigarettes and others drugs,” says Dr. Dawkins. “Parents should also consider vaping just as dangerous as smoking cigarettes when talking to their teens about the dangers of tobacco use and smoking.”