The use of e-cigarettes, also known as vaping, recently gained popularity among today’s youths. As a matter of fact, the National Institute on Drug Abuse reports that teenagers are more likely to smoke e-cigarettes in comparison to traditional cigarettes. In fact, 70% of teenagers today are exposed to e-cigarettes in the media. The belief that e-cigarettes are less harmful than traditional cigarettes have contributed to the rising use of e-cigarettes. With the rise of vaping, should pediatricians be concerned about teenagers’ use of e-cigarettes?
Teenagers’ Use of E-Cigarettes: Should Pediatricians be Concerned About E-Cigarettes?
What are E-Cigarettes?
E-cigarettes are battery-powered devices filled with cartridges containing chemicals, commonly known as e-liquid or e-juice, which produce aerosol. These cartridges contain flavorings as well as nicotine and various other chemicals. Users can tailor the chemicals ingested because e-cigarettes are composed of liquids. Therefore, e-cigarette users generally mix a variety of chemicals and substances. A heating component is included in the device to heat up the liquid, which converts it into vapor. Some users also use e-cigarettes only for its flavoring. E-cigarettes do not contain high amounts of tobacco or nicotine in comparison to traditional cigarettes. However, e-cigarettes have nicotine in them. In fact, the more that someone uses e-cigarettes, the more nicotine she or he will be ingesting.
E-cigarettes are dangerous for teenagers because they are more likely to try them as an alternative to traditional cigarettes. This is because they believe that it is less addicting and will generate little to no effects on them. Teenagers’ use of e-cigarettes is increasing at an incredible rate. Therefore, it is important for pediatricians to educate both teenagers and their families about the effects that e-cigarettes can have on their health.
What are the Effects of E-Cigarettes?
Addictive Behaviors: Similar to traditional cigarettes, users can become addicted to e-cigarettes. CBD (cannabidiol), THC (tetrahydrocannabinol), and nicotine in e-cigarettes cause addictive behaviors in users. Nicotine is a stimulant that causes neurotransmitters in the brain to release dopamine. Therefore, when users stop using e-cigarettes, their body will start to crave the nicotine. Although e-cigarettes do not have a high content of nicotine in comparison to traditional cigarettes, the increased used of e-cigarettes causes an accumulation of the chemical. E-cigarettes with high levels of CBD and THC will increase and speed up the addiction in users. Nicotine withdrawal is characterized by depressant behaviors followed by an urge for nicotine.
Weakened Immune System: The American Lung Association highlights how nicotine strengthens drug-resistant bacteria in the body. As a result, e-cigarette users face a weakened immune system. Consequently, they will then become at risk for respiratory infections. Teenagers’ use of e-cigarettes can cause harm to the body as they are still developing.
Susceptibility to Lung Diseases: Aside from nicotine, the chemicals in e-cigarettes can cause medical problems within users. For example, diacetyl, a chemical that creates a buttery taste, is a common flavoring that is used in e-cigarettes. Diacetyl is dangerous because it can cause lung diseases. Aside from this, teenagers’ use of e-cigarettes can be especially dangerous for those with asthma or allergies. This is because the chemicals in e-cigarettes can make it difficult for air to flow throughout the lungs, a problem for those with asthma.
Cancer: In addition to diacetyl, a common flavoring in e-cigarettes is formaldehyde. This chemical is often used in construction and can potentially cause cancer.
Poisoning: In 2014, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that “more than half (51.1 percent) of the calls to poison centers due to e-cigarettes involved young children under age 5, and about 42 percent of the poison calls involved people age 20 and older.” E-cigarette users are more likely to encounter nicotine poisoning when ingesting large amounts of nicotine. In addition, direct contact with the liquid can also cause poisoning as well as other harmful effects to the body.
Cardiovascular Effects: Nicotine in e-cigarettes also raises blood pressure, blood sugar, and heart rate, causing some to develop arrhythmia (abnormal heart rate). This can eventually cause heart diseases as they grow older. Specifically, teenagers will have a higher risk of encountering heart attacks and/or strokes.
Despite the belief that e-cigarettes do not possess any harm to the body, they do contain a lot of negative effects. Teenagers’ use of e-cigarettes should be monitored by pediatricians in order to minimize its effects.