From 2011 to 2016, cigarette smoking among teens declined from 15.8 percent to 8.0 percent, according to the CDC.
But this good news was hampered by the fact that e-cigarette smoking among this age group increased nearly eightfold in the same time period (1.5 percent to 11.3 percent). Why are e-cigarettes becoming more popular and are they safe for teens? Sucharita Kher, MD, Pulmonologist and Director of the Tufts Medical Center Outpatient Pulmonary Clinic and Laura Arvidson-Guzman, MD at Floating Hospital for Children have the answers to these and other questions about e-cigarettes and their usage trends among teens.
Smoking is "popular" again
One of the most popular forms of smoking e-cigarettes is 'Juuling' or smoking the e-cigarette brand Juul. A single Juul pod contains roughly the same amount of nicotine as a pack of cigarettes, is sold at a low price point, and is marketed in a variety of fruity flavors that appeal to adolescents. Many teens are unaware that the product contains nicotine, and therefore comes with its associated risks.
Harms of e-cigarettes
Studies have shown that teens who smoke e-cigarettes – which carry the same amount of nicotine as regular cigarettes - are more likely to become traditional cigarette smokers than those who don’t smoke.
There also is a lack of regulations on e-cigarette products, given the varying design and types available. In general, the main components are nicotine, propylene glycol or glycerol and flavorings. Although some of these flavorings may be safe to eat, there are concerns that they could be toxic when inhaled. Other compounds such as lead, tin, manganese and arsenic also have been found in e-cigarette liquids and vapor.
Other concerns include:
- Inhaling nicotine can damage lung tissue, making the lungs more susceptible to infections
- Second-hand smoke – nearby non-users may be exposed to the vapors from e-cigarettes
- Burn injuries
- Accidental ingestion of the e-liquid has led to seizures and even death
One common myth about e-cigarettes is that they are a safer option for people trying to quit smoking. However, recent studies have not shown that e-cigarettes are an effective smoking cessation tool. Some research even suggests that people who start using e-cigarettes are less likely to stop smoking traditional cigarettes.
The FDA has approved other smoking cessation treatments such as nicotine patches, gums and varenecline. If you are trying to quit smoking, speak to your doctor about these options to see what would work best for you.
Speaking to your teens about smoking
As the e-cigarette fad continues to grow, teaching children and teens about the dangers and addictiveness of e-cigarettes and cigarettes is increasingly important. Educating yourself about the harmfulness of these products is a great first step. To get the conversation started, we recommend this resource from the CDC.
Posted August 2018
The above content is provided for educational purposes by Tufts Medical Center. It is free for educational use. For information about your own health, contact your physician.