Cigarette smoking among teens has dropped substantially in recent years, only to be replaced by a preference for e-cigarettes, or “vaping.” According to a report by the U.S. Surgeon General, the most recent data indicates that use of e-cigarettes by teens in the United States has more than tripled since 2011.
Proponents of e-cigarettes say that vaping is less harmful than cigarette smoking and may be useful for adults who use the devices to wean themselves off cigarettes. However, vaping for teens is anything but safe, and the health risks may be as dangerous as cigarette smoking – or maybe even worse.
What are E-Cigarettes?
E-cigarettes, also known as vape pens, e-cigs or e-hookahs, are electronic devices that produce inhalable vapor from small amounts of heated oil or liquid. The vaporized liquids, sometimes known as vape juice, usually contain nicotine in varying amounts, although some are nicotine-free.
E-cigarettes contain no tobacco. However, the devices can be used as a delivery system for concentrated marijuana oil, as well as dangerous synthetic drugs like spice, flakka and K2.
Is Vaping Safer than Smoking?
The effects of vaping aren’t yet completely understood, but it’s a mistake to assume that e-cigarettes produce harmless water vapor.
E-cigarettes are attractive to kids, partially because manufacturers have created kid-friendly flavors such as cotton candy, peanut butter and jelly, cinnamon, butter pecan, gummy bears, mint, and tropical fruit.
Toxic chemicals: It’s true that e-cigarettes contain fewer toxins than standard tobacco products, but the vapor contains a number of carcinogens, toxic chemicals and minute particles of toxic metals that can damage the heart, lungs and immune system, as well as the still-developing brain.
Vaping during pregnancy: Nicotine in any form, including e-cigarettes, is dangerous for teen mothers and their unborn babies, increasing the risk of spontaneous abortion, learning disabilities, ADHD, behavioral problems, sudden infant death syndrome and stillbirth.
Nicotine Addiction: Like regular cigarettes, vaping liquids containing nicotine are highly addictive. What’s more, kids who vape are more likely to eventually smoke cigarettes. Many teens use both.
Vaping as a Gateway to other Drugs: Higher Risk of Cocaine Addiction
It appears that use of e-cigarettes may eventually lead to serious addiction and an increased need for addiction treatment or rehab.
Although it has yet to be confirmed, studies suggest that kids who use e-cigarettes may be primed to use stronger drugs, cocaine in particular, probably because both substances act on the same pleasure receptors in the brain.
One study found that nicotine, including that in e-cigarettes, substantially enhanced the cocaine high, thus increasing the risk of eventual cocaine addiction.