The Oxford Dictionary defines an emergency as an event or situation that is serious, often dangerous, and requires immediate attention. An emergency can pose an immediate risk to health, life, property, or environment. When we think of an emergency, we typically think of fire, flooding, a hurricane, or a terrorist attack. COVID-19 re-introduced us to the pandemic. We are also experiencing another health emergency – E-Cigarette use.
You may or may not be familiar with E-Cigarettes or Electric Nicotine As explained in “E-Cigarettes: Just the Facts,” E-cigarettes or ENDS (Electronic Nicotine Delivery Systems) are battery-powered devices that allow users to inhale nicotine in the form of an aerosol/vapor. This fact sheet, which is sponsored by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Administration (SAMHSA), goes on to advise that E-Cigarettes are made to resemble cigarettes, pipes, and cigars. Some of the devices are also being manufactured to resemble common items such as pens and USB flash drives.
E-cigarettes can be disposable, rechargeable, pre-filled, or modified (tank style) allowing users to fill with their liquid of choice. They all contain a battery that heats a solution (e-liquid) commonly made up of propylene glycol and/or glycerin, nicotine, and flavoring agents. There is a multitude of flavorings on the market including coffee, candy, baked goods, and alcohol. When the liquid is heated it is turned into an aerosol. The user inhales and exhales the aerosol. Kids refer to the activity as “vaping.” Vaping is increasing to the level of an epidemic among students from middle school through college.
Nicotine in any form is a dangerous and addictive drug. The 2012 Surgeon General’s Report found that about 90% of all smokers first tried cigarettes as teens. Three of every four teen smokers continue into adulthood. Data from the National Youth Tobacco Survey shows many youths are using e-cigarettes as their first experience with a tobacco product. E-cigarettes can contain nicotine. Nicotine usage during adolescence can be extremely harmful to brain development, can cause addiction, and may lead to sustained tobacco use. Research has shown teens progress to dually using e-cigarettes and conventional cigarettes after the initial exposure to e-cigarettes. Dual usage increases the risk of greater levels of nicotine exposure.
What’s the Bottom Line on the Risks of E-cigarettes for Kids, Teens, and Young Adults?
- The use of e-cigarettes is unsafe for kids, teens, and young adults.
- Most e-cigarettes contain nicotine. Nicotine is highly addictive and can harm adolescent brain development, which continues into the early to mid-20s.1
- E-cigarettes can contain other harmful substances besides nicotine.
- Young people who use e-cigarettes may be more likely to smoke cigarettes in the future.
We can help by being informed, aware, and willing to assist whether it is our friend, adult child, grandchild, or a neighbor’s child. For more information see: