Thursday Thought: E-Cigarettes & Teenagers

The Effects of E-cigarettes on Teenagers

The good news is that Americans are smoking less. Between 2005 and 2016, there has been a 5.6% decrease in cigarette smoking in adults over the age of 18. E-cigarettes have been around since 2003. It was created by a Chinese pharmacist who was a smoker and whose father died of lung cancer, even though the idea of e-cigarettes has been floating around since 1927. However, even though the use of e-cigarettes is not new, we still don’t know the overall effects it has on us.

The most popular e-cigarette is the Juul. This type of e-cigarette has ideally been designed to attract the young smoker and although the manufacturer claims they are trying to help smokers cut back or stop smoking, it is drawing teens to begin smoking earlier because of its appeal. The appeal of the Juul is in its design. It plugs into a USB port; this is very appealing to our youth as it falls within their love of technology. It also has many fruity flavors and because of its sleek design, it is easy to put in your pocket, which is different than putting a bulky e-cigarette in your pocket or a pack of cigarettes.

Although no extensive studies and research have been completed on the e-cigarette to ascertain its health risks, it is highly addictive due to the high level of nicotine content. One cartridge has as much nicotine as a pack of cigarettes. One of the biggest risks with the use of e-cigarettes is that teens still have developing brains and the use of nicotine creates an addiction that will be hard to overcome. Because using e-cigarettes is similar to smoking cigarettes, it is believed that they will carry the same risks. The effects not only include addiction but can lead to the use of other addictive agents, attention deficit and mood disorders, just to name a few.

Some studies completed have found that when non-smokers were exposed to e-cigarette vapors, the burning vapors cause inflammation that can result in oral diseases. Dentists are looking out for “dry” mouth, coughing and extra phlegm in the throat and grinding of teeth, which is a result of the use of nicotine (which is a stimulant). Please remember that the absence of any visual problems does not mean problems will not be present in the near future.

As parents and health care providers, we should be proactive in warning our teens of the dangers of e-cigarettes and reminding them that it is really no different than smoking cigarettes. Remember one cartridge for the Juul is equal to one packet of cigarettes – as far as the content of nicotine.