A scary misconception continues to hang over our youth when it comes to e-cigarettes, “No I don’t smoke. I vape…”
The truth is it is the same thing. While many children and even some adults have come to believe vaping is a healthier alternative to smoking cigarettes or other forms of tobacco use, the fact is that’s only half true. “E-cigarettes are not safe for youth, young adults, pregnant women, or adults who do not currently use tobacco products,” according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In other words, vaping is a healthier alternative ONLY for current ADULT smokers who are NOT pregnant if used as a COMPLETE substitute for regular cigarettes and other smoked tobacco products.
Talk about stipulations…
According to the CDC, evidence from two randomized controlled trials found that e-cigarettes with nicotine can help smokers stop smoking in the long term compared with placebo (non-nicotine) e-cigarettes. However, a recent CDC study found that many adults are using e-cigarettes in an attempt to quit smoking, but most do not stop smoking cigarettes and are instead continuing to use both products (dual use).
How much clearer can it get?
Yet, in Tuscarawas County and across the state we continue to see, specifically youth, falling under a dangerous misconception that there is no harm to vaping. “In the past two weeks we have seen a large number of students (for a small district) admit to doing it,” explained Lindsey Tidrick, Guidance Counselor for Strasburg-Franklin Local Schools. “We don’t have an average because it’s a relatively new ‘thing,’ but I do believe it is growing in popularity. Many students believe it is harmless, so they try it and then get hooked.”
Statistics show that in the United States, youth are more likely to use e-cigarettes than adults.
The fact that use of vaping devices, also referred to as e-cigs, e-hookahs, mods, vape pens, tank systems, and other names, are growing in popularity goes directly against the CDC’s simply recommendation: “If you’ve never used other tobacco products or e-cigarettes, don’t start.”
“They are doing it because they think it’s ‘cool’ and I believe they are curious,” added Tidrick. “Each time we have caught someone they say it’s not a big deal it’s just vaping. But what they don’t realize is that there are amounts of nicotine in them and sometimes the amounts are the same as one pack of cigarette. The flavoring also makes them more alluring to kids too.”
The CDC continues to stress that nicotine is highly addictive and can harm adolescent brain development, which continues into the early to mid-20s. Furthermore, studies show that young people who use e-cigarettes may be more likely to smoke cigarettes in the future.
Superintendent of Tuscarawas Valley Local Schools, Mark Murphy, points to deceptive marketing tricks designed to entice youth use of vaping products. “Vendors creatively market vaping and the use of e-cigarettes as an alternative for adults wishing to break the habit of cigarette smoking,” he explained. “What’s happening, however, is that young people increasingly see vaping as non-harmful and non-addictive. Unfortunately, on limited occasions, even middle school students have been disciplined for use of these types of products.”
Murphy suggests the marketing, packaging, and even the manufacturing of vaping substances is specifically designed to lure and attract young people.
So, what is inhaled from e-cigarettes?
And what is inhaled from traditional cigarettes?
According to the CDC, tobacco smoke contains more than 7,000 chemical components, and at least 250 of these chemicals are harmful to human health.
Regardless if something has fewer dangerous chemicals or not, even one dangerous chemical is well, dangerous!
The CDC states this very clearly: E-cigarette aerosol generally contains fewer toxic chemicals than the deadly mix of 7,000 chemicals in smoke from regular cigarettes. However, e-cigarette aerosol is not harmless. It can contain harmful and potentially harmful substances, including nicotine, heavy metals like lead, volatile organic compounds, and cancer-causing agents.
Not to mention, using nicotine in adolescence can harm the parts of the brain that control attention, learning, mood, and impulse control.
“The community needs to understand the effects of vaping and that it is not a safe alternative,” added Tidrick. “I shared with a parent that her child was caught, and she said she was okay with it and that it’s not as bad as smoking. Her perception was, ‘at least it’s not cigarettes’ and my fear is that many people feel that way.”
Even when these companies market e-cigarette products as being nicotine free, the products are still dangerous. The CDC explains, “Besides nicotine, e-cigarette aerosol can contain substances that harm the body. This includes cancer-causing chemicals and tiny particles that reach deep into lungs.”
“It may not stink like a cigarette and it may look fun to blow a huge cloud of smoke, but it is not a healthy alternative to smoking,” added Murphy. “It is addictive, and it is not healthy.”
So, what can we do as parents and community leaders?
- Set a good example by being tobacco-free. If you use tobacco, it’s never too late to quit. For free help, visit gov or call 1-800-QUIT-NOW.
- Talk to your child or teen about why e-cigarettes are harmful to them. It’s never too late.
- Get the Talk With Your Teen About E-cigarettes[PDF – 5.2MB] tip sheet for parents. Start the conversation early with children about why e-cigarettes are harmful ftothem.
- Let your child know that you want them to stay away from all tobacco products, including e-cigarettes because they are not safe for them. Seek help and get involved.
- Set up an appointment with your child’s health care provider so that they can hear from a medical professional about the health risks of tobacco products, including e-cigarettes.
- Speak with your child’s teacher and school administrator about enforcement of tobacco-free school grounds policies and tobacco prevention curriculum.
- Encourage your child to learn the facts and get tips for quitting tobacco products at smokefree.gov.