Has your teen talked about trying e-cigarettes or sampled some of the flavored versions being heavily marketed to teens?
If so, you have company. The popularity of e-cigarettes has soared in the past few years and many of those “vaping” are teenagers.
Sales of e-cigarettes are said to be $6 billion worldwide and chances are there is a vape shop – or two – in your own town. Vaping is also estimated to be growing by a whopping 42 percent a year.
E-cigarettes are slender electronic devices resembling cigarettes that heat liquids containing nicotine. When heated, the liquid vaporizes and users inhale it.
Not only are the big tobacco companies selling their own versions of e-cigarettes, but there are hundreds of models and thousands of flavors. Teens especially are drawn to enticing-sounding flavors like Belgian waffle and peppermint blast.
Pediatricians have worried that many teens could become addicted, especially since until recently, it has been entirely legal in Virginia for those under 18 to buy e-cigarettes. A new state law took effect July 1, 2019, raising the legal age to purchase any nicotine products to 21. Legislators hope that raising the legal age will delay younger teens' first exposure to them.
What should parents know about vaping in the meantime?
E-cigarettes are being marketed as a safer alternative to cigarettes, but they are not. An e-cigarette is still a nicotine delivery system, and vaping is not a safe habit for teenagers. Therefore, parents should discourage their children from starting to smoke e-cigarettes.
Vaping plays different roles for adults and teenagers. While some adults have been successful in weaning themselves off regular cigarettes by using e-cigarettes, teens tend to start vaping and then move on to real cigarettes.
What should parents look for if they suspect their teens are vaping?
Parents need to pay attention to their children's behaviors, friends and the relationship between parents and children. If parents notice any changes, they should talk to their children. If children have already been smoking e-cigarettes, parents should talk to their physician about the ways to help their children stop smoking.
The sad fact is that many teens who wouldn’t have tried cigarettes now make a habit of vaping.
The article was reviewed by Carilion Children's physicians.