The use of e-cigarettes among high school students grew by 900% between 2011 and 2015. In late 2018, the FDA began a widespread campaign to educate kids about the health risks associated with the use of e-cigarettes, often known as “vaping.” Vaping is more common in adolescents than smoking traditional cigarettes, with health officials in the United States calling the use of e-cigarettes among youth a developing public health crisis. The National Institute on Drug Abuse notes that, while e-cigarettes are illegal for use under the age of 18, they are still relatively easy to acquire for many teens and may be uniquely appealing due to their heavy marketing, perceived low risk, and the variety of flavors available.
E-Cigarettes, Teens, and Addiction to Nicotine
Many people are under the impression that e-cigarettes are a risk-free alternative to smoking regular cigarettes, and pose no health risks or addictive qualities to users. This is not the case. Many e-cigarettes contain nicotine, the addictive substance found in regular cigarettes. The frequent inclusion of nicotine in such products can lead to addictive behavior in users, potentially priming them to begin using other tobacco products, such as traditional cigarettes. Multiple studies have found that this phenomenon is more pronounced in kids and teens. Further, among e-cigarette users who progress to traditional cigarette use, many smoke more cigarettes and are less likely to quit smoking than people who do not use e-cigarettes. A report from the U.S Surgeon General further warns of the effects of nicotine exposure on the developing brains of youth, noting teen e-cigarette users’ risks for “reduced impulse control, deficits in attention and cognition, and mood disorders”.
Other Health Risks of E-Cigarettes
In addition to their potentially addictive qualities due to nicotine, e-cigarettes may pose other health risks. While e-cigarettes are somewhat safer than traditional cigarettes, recent research has found that they can cause the same sorts of “cancer-linked genetic changes in oral tissues” as traditional cigarettes. This does not mean that e-cigarettes necessarily cause cancer, but it does imply that they are not a guaranteed safe alternative. When people inhale the vapor from e-cigarettes, they are introducing potentially unsafe chemicals into their lungs, such as ultrafine particles, carcinogenic flavorants like diaceyl, and heavy metals. Another study simulated the effect of 10 years of smoking e-cigarettes, and found that exposure to e-cigarette vapor produced DNA damage to the lungs, bladder, and heart. Teenage users may also experience an increase in coughing, wheezing, and asthma-related flare-ups.
Educating Kids About the Risks of E-Cigarettes
Being a relatively new product, the long-term effects of e-cigarettes are still unknown. However, the short-term risks are clear, especially to preteens, teens, and adolescents, whose brains are still developing and are thus even more susceptible to substance use. Nicotine is powerfully addictive, and the various chemicals and additives found in e-cigarettes may pose other serious health risks that research has not yet discovered. Teens and adolescents using e-cigarettes are risking a progression towards the immensely harmful habit of smoking traditional cigarettes, as well as risking their own physical and mental health on untested substances. It is crucial to educate kids, teens, and adolescents that these substances are not without their risks, and that vaping e-cigarettes is not a healthy alternative to smoking.
Breaking the Cycle of Addiction
Whether one is addicted to nicotine or any other drug, addiction is profoundly damaging to one’s health and life. Addiction often stems from a combination of social, physical, and emotional factors that must all be addressed if sustained recovery is to be achieved. Granite Recovery Centers in New Hampshire uses a unique integrated care model that focuses on the 12 Steps to recovery and clinical psychotherapy. These powerful treatments are supported by a holistic care that ensures the proper environment and healthy practices for recovery. If you or a loved one are addicted to drugs or alcohol, the time to seek treatment is now. If you are struggling with a drug addiction, please call our admissions specialists at 855.712.7784. We can help.