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Vaping and e-cigarettes: What parents need to know

April 15, 2019
Jodi Smith , MOV Parent

As parents, it can often be difficult to stay on top of all the possible dangers our children are faced with at school or online. One danger that is prevalent among young people right now is the use of e-cigarettes and Juuls. These electronic devices provide large quantities of nicotine and are being marketed in such a way that they appeal to young people. Flavors like bubble gum and watermelon are among the many options, and this device known as "vaping" is being marketed as a safe alternative to other forms of tobacco.

Makers of these popular vaping devices say they are not trying to market to young people, but the truth is right now the rate of youth using these products is astonishing. In fact, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration is calling this an "epidemic" among our middle and high school students.

Experts say one Juul pod, the tiny cartridge that goes into the Juul and delivers nicotine into the body, has as much nicotine as an entire pack of cigarettes. The Juul is popular because it is easy to hide. The device and the pods look like USB devices. They produce vapors and can also be easy to hide one way is to blow the vapor into a bottle instead of into the air. According to the CDC, the device produces a water vapor that is actually an aerosol with cancer-causing chemicals.

The dangers of vaping are still unclear at this point, but what experts are seeing in young people is forms of "nicotine toxicity" which produce headaches and stomachaches. There are also changes to the brain that happen because of vaping that researchers are still studying. The adolescent brain is still changing and developing and use of this product is dangerous.

E-cigarettes and vaping are more popular among young people than another other type of tobacco product on the market. The U.S. Surgeon reported that since 2015, the use of e-cigarettes by high school students has increased by 900 percent. It was also noted that 40 percent of young people who vape never smoked or used regular tobacco products.

Michael Blaha, MD, M.P.H., director of clinical research at the Johns Hopkins Ciccarone Center for the Prevention of Heart Disease, shares that while vaping and e-cigarettes do expose people to less chemicals than traditional cigarettes (which have more than 7,000 chemicals), it is still bad for your health. It contains high levels of nicotine which is a toxic substance and causes your blood pressure and heart rate to increase, which eventually leads to heart disease.

Blaha says there are three reasons vaping is appealing to young people.

They think it is less harmful than cigarettes.

Vaping is cheaper than smoking regular cigarettes.

E-cigarettes have lots of appealing flavors.

"What I find most concerning about the rise of vaping is that people who would've never smoked otherwise, especially youth, are taking up the habit," says Blaha. "It's one thing if you convert from cigarette smoking to vaping. It's quite another thing to start up nicotine use with vaping. And, it often leads to using traditional tobacco products down the road."

Because vaping is still fairly new, the dangers are still being researched. However, there are dangers that we do know:

Vaping is highly addictive and contains toxins

Can slow brain development in teens and cause memory and attention issues

Can increase other types of addiction

Damages the lining of the lungs

Leads to smoking regular cigarettes and using other forms of tobacco

Defective devices have caused explosions and injury

So what can parents and educators do to reduce the use of e-cigarettes among youth?

Know and understand the different shapes and forms of e-cigarettes and vaping devices

Understand the risks associated with vaping and e-cigarettes

Talk to children about the risks and facts about vaping and e-cigarettes

For more parent and educator information on the risks of e-cigarettes and prevention tips, visit


"5 Truths You Need to Know About Vaping." 5 Truths You Need to Know About Vaping,

"Quick Facts on the Risks of E-Cigarettes for Kids, Teens, and Young Adults." Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention,

"Vaping: What You Need to Know (for Teens)." Edited by Hillary B. Gordon, KidsHealth, The Nemours Foundation, Feb. 2019,

Jodi Smith is a member of the WVU Extension Service.



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