From 2011 to 2016, cigarette smoking among teens declined from 15.8% to 8.0%, according to the CDC. While this is encouraging news, e-cigarette smoking among this age group increased in the same time period, from 1.5% to 11.3%. Why are e-cigarettes becoming more popular? Are they safe for teens?
We asked Sucharita Kher, MD, the Director of the Tufts Medical Center Outpatient Pulmonary Clinic and Laura Arvidson-Guzman, MD to answer key questions about e-cigarettes and the usage trends among teens.
Smoking is "popular" again
One of the most popular forms of smoking e-cigarettes is 'Juuling' or smoking the e-cigarette brand Juul. A single Juul pod contains roughly the same amount of nicotine as a pack of cigarettes, is sold at a low price point, and is marketed in a variety of fruity flavors that appeal to adolescents. Many adolescents are unaware that the product contains nicotine and its associated risks.
Harms of e-cigarettes
One of the main concerns about e-cigarettes is that these products carry the same amount of nicotine as regular cigarettes. Studies have shown that teens who smoke them are more likely to become traditional cigarette smokers than those who don’t smoke.
Another concern is the lack of regulations on e-cigarette products, given the varying design and types available. In general, the main components are nicotine, propylene glycol or glycerol and flavorings. Although some of these flavorings may be safe to eat, there are concerns that they may be toxic when inhaled. Other compounds such as lead, tin, manganese, arsenic have also been found in e-cigarette liquids and vapor.
Other concerns include:
- By inhaling nicotine, we can damage our lung tissue making our lungs more susceptible to infections
- Second-hand smoke- The vapors created from e-cigarettes may expose non-users nearby
- Burn injuries
- Accidental ingestion of the e-liquid has lead to seizures and even death
One common myth about e-cigarettes is that they are often seen as an option for individuals working on quitting smoking.
Recent studies have not been able to show that they are an effective smoking cessation tools. Some research even suggests that people who start using e-cigarettes are less likely to stop smoking traditional cigarettes.
The FDA has approved other smoking cessation treatments such as nicotine patches, gums and varenecline. If you are trying to quit smoking, speak to your doctor about these options to see what would work best for you.
Speaking to your teens about smoking
As this trend continues to grow, teaching children and teens about the dangers and addictiveness of e-cigarettes and cigarettes is very important. Educating yourself about the harmfulness of these products is a great first step. To get the conversation started, we recommend this resource from the CDC >