What Parents Should Know About E-Cigarette Usage Among Kids

Although it’s not always easy, it’s your responsibility as a parent to help your child practice good, healthy habits.

Smoking cigarettes has probably been a topic of discussion in your household, along with the risks associated with it. Traditionally, smoking has been a temptation many kids experience, and often give in to, because they want to fit in with the “cool” kids using the nicotine based product.

Over the past few years, a new nicotine based product has hit the market – e-cigarettes, or e-cigs. E-cigarettes were developed to allow smokers to experience nicotine without tobacco or the harmful effects of inhaling smoke, reducing their risk of lung cancers.

Since e-cigarettes are not regulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and marketed in a variety of bright colors and seemingly tasteful flavors, they have caught the eye of kids in a big way. It’s relatively easy to buy them online too.

The 2014 National Youth Tobacco Survey from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that in the past year, the use of e-cigarettes by middle and high-school students has tripled. In fact, 13.4 percent of high school students (between 660,000 and 2 million) and 3.9 percent of middle school students (120,000 – 450,000 students) have used e-cigarettes at least once in the past 30 days.

An FAQ for Parents About E-Cigarettes

To help parents feel informed about e-cigarettes and comfortable talking to their children about them, below is a series of common questions parents ask, and answers to each.

Remember that smoking of any kind – cigarettes, e-cigarettes, marijuana, etc. – is not safe and should be avoided completely.

Q. What are e-cigarettes?

A. E-cigarettes are battery-operated electronic devices that look like pens. Users insert cartridges into the e-cigarette that contains nicotine, flavors, and other chemicals. The battery heats the contents in the cartridge to create a vapor, which is then inhaled – hence the term “vaping.”

Q. Why are kids attracted to e-cigarettes?

A. Children may be interested in e-cigarettes for a number of reasons, but the most likely reason is to portray a “cool” image.

E-cigarettes are advertised heavily as a new, glamorous way to smoke. They’re visually appealing and can be used with flavors that sound like some of our favorite candy and foods. There are also games associated with them like “cloud chasing,” where kids try to see who can make the biggest vapor cloud.

Q. Are e-cigarettes addictive?

A. Since e-cigarettes contain nicotine, a chemical compound found in tobacco, they are addictive. Because they are relatively new, there’s not enough research available to compare how addictive they are to traditional cigarettes.

Q. Is nicotine dangerous?

A. Nicotine can be toxic and interfere with brain development, especially in children. The 2014 U.S. Surgeon General’s report says that exposure to nicotine during childhood can have serious consequences on the brains of unborn babies, children, and teens.

When nicotine usage stops, people experience withdrawals and have symptoms like anxiety, irritability, headaches, and hunger.

Q. Are e-cigarettes safe?

A. E-cigarettes should be avoided completely. There are arguments that say they’re safer than traditional cigarettes, but no substantial evidence is available right now that shows the long-term effects of using e-cigarettes.

Q. How do I know if my child is using e-cigarettes?

A. Unfortunately it’s difficult to know if your child is using e-cigarettes. They don’t have a distinct scent like traditional cigarettes. E-cigarettes can create a dry cough and irritate the throat and mouth. If your child shows any of these symptoms and it doesn’t appear there’s a reason for it, consider having a conversation about e-cigarettes.

Final Thoughts

Given the market-demand for e-cigarettes, it’s likely they’re here to stay. Time will tell how and when the FDA may regulate them, but for now keep a watchful eye on your children for signs they’re using e-cigarettes.

Meet the Author

Joseph T. Weber, MD is a Pulmonologist at Aurora Medical Center in Kenosha, Wisconsin.

Read more posts from this author

The information presented in this site is intended for general information and educational purposes. It is not intended to replace the advice of your own physician. Contact your physician if you believe you have a health problem.

Get engaging health and wellness insights emailed to you daily.

Check it out now

Recent Posts

How Meditation Can Help Cancer Patients

After Beating Cancer, What's Next? The New Normal

What Are the Latest Colorectal Cancer Guidelines?

Find a Doctor Find a Location