Healthy Kids - Spring 2021

The Dangers of Vaping I N DEPTH

Seeing through the smoke and mirrors

the 2020 National Youth Tobacco Survey, a cross-sectional, self-administered survey of U.S. middle school and high school students, nearly 20 percent of high school students (3.05 million) and 4.7 percent of middle school students (550,000) reported using an e-cigarette within 30 days of taking the survey. Of those, 22.5 percent of high schoolers and 9.4 percent of middle schoolers reported daily use. With nearly 3.6 million kids using e-cigarettes regularly, the problem has reached epidemic proportions—and shouldn’t be taken lightly. “Despite being advertised as not having nicotine, if you actually look at the products, they do,” says Dr. Inwards-Breland. In fact, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that 99 percent of e-cigarettes studied contained nicotine, which can be particularly harmful to the developing adolescent brain. “Not only can that lead to nicotine addiction, it can also cause major issues with anxiety and mood, and other medical and mental health issues. Vaping can lead to serious, sometimes deadly, respiratory illness. And today, there’s evidence that patients who are vaping and smoking have an increased risk of catching— and dying from—COVID-19, particularly if they’re in a minority population.” Because of the products’ inherently discreet design, it may be difficult to recognize whether your child vapes—but it’s certainly a topic worth discussing. “My recommendation to parents is to talk to your children—have the conversation,” Dr. Inwards-Breland concludes. “If you find a vaping apparatus, sit down and talk to your child about it. Why are they using it and how often? If you approach it like a conversation, rather than a confrontation, they’re more likely to talk about it. Then you can bring it up with their doctor and help them quit.”

E-CIGARETTES. YOU SEE THEM EVERYWHERE. Sleek devices that can look like a pen, a flash drive, or a liquid-filled cartridge. You may see adults puffing on them in the car next to you at the stoplight or even in your local grocery store. They’re so commonplace—and so discreet, often producing no visible clouds or odor, or even a pleasant aroma like peppermint or watermelon—you might think they’re harmless. In fact, they’re anything but. Plus, thanks to tobacco companies’ often- misleading tactics, e-cigarettes—or vapes, as they’re commonly called—are especially appealing to teens looking for a “safer” entry to substance use. “It’s widely known that cigarette smoking is bad, but some vaping products are advertised as having no nicotine. In the eyes of young people, it seems a healthier alternative to smoking,” explains David Inwards-Breland, MD, chief of the Division of Adolescent and Young Adult Medicine at Rady Children’s. “To teens, who see their peers using it and functioning just fine, it’s ‘cool’ to have a vaping machine. The smoke is cool. The apparatus is cool. There are different scents and tastes that make it easy to hide. And it’s an easy way to ingest both nicotine and marijuana. All of this is what makes it so dangerous.” Dangerous, yet shockingly prevalent. According to

Smoking e-cigarettes can lead to nicotine addiction, and it can also cause major issues with anxiety and mood


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