Paul M. D'Amore
Smoking is “cool” again and health officials are concerned. The use of traditional cigarettes among children and teens has significantly decreased over the past few years. However, with the introduction of vaping and e-cigarettes, smoking is on the rise again. More than 20% of current high school students have reported using e-cigarettes at least once according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and these vaping products are not as safe as originally advertised.
The Rise of Vape Culture
Vaping products hit the United States market back in 2007 and have been climbing in popularity ever since. New data published by John Hopkins Medicine shows at least 2 million middle and high school students have used vaping products just within the last 30 days. And while e-cigarettes were originally marketed as a way to curve the need to smoke traditional cigarettes, the CDC reports that 40% of current e-cigarette users, ages 18 to 24, were never tobacco smokers prior to using vaping products.
E-cigarettes and vaporizers come in several variations that are extremely appealing to younger users: different sizes, designs, flashy colors, popular flavors, etc. Some of these products are even marketed as ‘healthy products’ by choosing flavors typically associated with health foods- for instance mango or coconut. Unfortunately, young consumers are diving right into using vaping products under the false impression that they are safe when, sadly, they are proving to be just as dangerous as traditional cigarettes.
Hidden Dangers of Vaping
Vaping products, which use liquid tobacco as opposed to solid, are considered a safer alternative to traditional cigarettes because you get the same effect from smoking without the harmful side-effects of smoke inhalation. However, vaping also involves the inhalation of harmful substances and unknown chemicals that could cause significant health conditions in the future.
When e-cigarette users take a breath from their products, they are inhaling anything from:
- Volatile organic compounds
- Ultrafine Particles
- Heavy metals (tin, lead, nickel)
- Flavoring chemicals linked to lung disease (diacetyl)
- Cancer-causing chemicals
What’s terribly concerning is vaping consumers are not always 100% aware of what they are inhaling. Not all ingredients in vaping products are approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the CDC reported that some products marketed as nicotine free are still found to contain traces of nicotine. Studies are showing that products such as Juul pods contain Group 1 carcinogens (the most potent carcinogens known) and concentrated amounts of nicotine that could lead to higher rates of addiction, particularly in teens. The younger a tobacco user begins consuming nicotine products, the harder the brain has to work to kick the habit, which could lead young e-cigarette users in the direction of also using traditional cigarettes- the habit they were supposed to be avoiding by vaping.
One of the most dangerous new vaping products on the market growing in popularity with young tobacco users are JUUL pods. An article published by Fox 5 News reported that schools in Annapolis have noticed an uptick in students ‘juuling’ while in school, particularly in class or in the bathrooms. Juuling has skyrocketed because it is easy to hide and comes in several different flavors. JUUL pods are designed small enough to fit into the palm of your hand and are often mistaken by parents and teachers as USB drives due to their similar appearance. They are also odorless, allowing teens to smoke them anytime without detection.
Most young users of JUUL pods consider them to be harmless and are under the impression they are only vaping flavor- this is far from the truth. A study published in Tobacco Control reported that 63% of JUUL users between the ages of 15 and 24 did not realize the product always contained nicotine. This misinformation is putting thousands of children and teens at risk for a future of nicotine dependency that could lead to other serious addictions and health conditions.
Aside from nicotine, teens are secretly smoking another substance in their JUUL pods that have parents concerned: THC. THC or tetrahydrocannabinol is the ingredient in marijuana that produces the feeling of being high. An article published in WBALTV revealed Baltimore schools are finding a rising number of kids are sneaking THC into there JUUL pods while at school. THC could cause students to fall behind academically due to attending classes under the influence. They are also more likely to drive under the influence, putting others in serious danger on the roads.
Baltimore Vaping Laws
Second-hand smoke is still a growing concern with vaping products just as it has been for years with traditional cigarettes. Laws prohibiting the use of vaping products in public places are becoming more common as the truth behind the ingredients of these devices are revealed. In Baltimore, Baltimore City Council approved Bill 14-0371 back in November of 2014 that voted to ban vaping in public places where smoking was prohibited. The only exception to the law was made for restaurants and bars who want the use of vaping products in their establishments and post a proper notice to customers that they will be exposed to these products upon entering.
As more research continues on the health risks and benefits of vaping and e-cigarette use, countries around the world are beginning to strictly regulate the use of these products, some even considering them illegal. America is currently viewed as one of the most vaping friendly countries, but this too could change as we uncover more information on the vaping trend.
What Parents Can Do
Parents can play a significant role in helping curve the trend of teens jumping on the vaping bandwagon. An article published by U.S. News provides advice on what parents can do if they think their teens could be using harmful vaping products:
- Talk to your kids: Know what your kids know and what they do not know about vaping. Asses their knowledge of the products, the possible ingredients, and what they believe to be true when it comes to the health risks of using them.
- Know the products: Parents should be aware of what vaping products look like and how they are used, especially the ones that are considered highly addictive. This helpful chart from the Center for Addiction is an excellent place for parents to start.
- Be on the lookout: Keep an eye out for suspicious behaviors or items. Teens are really good at hiding things and may use all sorts of tactics to secretly vape in public or at home.
- Help your teen stop: If your teen has become addicted to vaping products, help them quit. Supporting them as opposed to punishing them will be more effective in helping them kick the habit.