Beware of E-Cigarettes

I was driving down a street near my house the other day and noted a giant sign at a local convenience store advertising that they sell e-cigarettes. I have to admit to not knowing a lot about e-cigarettes, so I decided to learn more—and what I learned was a little frightening. But I also found some tips on the subject from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP News, November 2013) to pass on to you.

What are e-cigarettes?

Electronic cigarettes (also known as e-cigs) gained popularity several years ago with adults who wished to stop smoking. E-cigs were initially touted as an aid to smoking cessation.

Electronic cigarettes are advertised as a way to help smokers quit. They are sold in many colors, shapes, sizes, and flavors, such as vanilla, chocolate, and peach schnapps. The devices have a battery, a vaporizer, and a cartridge that team up together to produce a fine mist or vapor that is inhaled. Smoking e-cigarettes is known as “vaping.”

What’s in that mist?

Good old nicotine, which happens to be one of the most addictive substances on earth.

And who is using e-cigs?

Apparently, some of our kids are.

E-cig usage has rapidly multiplied among middle- and high-school students over the past few years. A survey by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that about 1 in every 10 high-school students admitted having used an e-cigarette.

What’s the risk?

  • E-cigs are not regulated or approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and so their makers don't have to follow the same rules as with other nicotine products. This means that the amount of nicotine and other harmful ingredients in each cartridge can vary.
  • In addition, it’s easy for kids to buy e-cigs. More than half of states allow kids of any age to purchase e-cigarettes, and they’re also easy to buy online and in kiosks at the mall.
  • Children can then easily become hooked on the nicotine, which could then spur them on to start smoking regular (and cheaper) cigarettes as well.

What should parents do?

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) urges parents to talk with their kids about the dangers of e-cigarettes. Most cartridges contain 20 milligrams (mg) of nicotine—when as little as 10 mg of nicotine can be fatal for a child.

According to the AAP, parents who think their child may be using e-cigarettes should watch for signs of nicotine addiction. These include

  • feeling nervous
  • craving e-cigarettes
  • not being able to quit

Parents who are trying to quit smoking themselves should avoid using e-cigarettes and should try other options that are approved by the FDA, such as nicotine patches and gum.

©1996-2013, Johns Hopkins University. All rights reserved. Disclosure: The information provided here is compiled by The Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine with editorial supervision by one or more of the members of the faculty of the School of Medicine pursuant to a license agreement with Yahoo! Inc. under which the School of Medicine and its faculty editors receive licensing fees and payment for services rendered within the scope of the License Agreement. Johns Hopkins subscribes to the HONcode principles of the Health on the Net Foundation.

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