Clearing the air around e-cigarette facts and fiction
Parents have been lighting up with questions about e-cigarettes and whether they are really a safe alternative to regular cigarette smoking. Let me take a deep breath and cough out some information on this topic.
E-cigarettes are battery-powered devices designed to look and feel like regular cigarettes. E-cigarettes contain cartridges filled with a liquid that contains nicotine, as well as other chemicals that may be cancer-causing, and thus have the same addictive potential as a real cigarette.
In fact, some e-cigarettes can have as much nicotine as a whole pack of cigarettes. The heating device in the e-cigarette converts the liquid in the cartridge into vapor, which the user inhales. The process is referred to not as smoking but as vaping.
Nicotine through vaping can get into the bloodstream via the lungs and in turn can affect the brain, nervous system and heart. It can raise blood pressure and heart rate, and the higher the dose of nicotine, the higher the blood pressure and heart rate. This can result in abnormal heart rhythms, which could even cause heart failure and death.
Use of e-cigarettes has doubled, with one in 10 high school students recently reporting having tried an e-cigarette. These are not regulated by the FDA and thus do not have to follow the same rules as other regulated nicotine products, which makes their purchase easier for children and teens, especially online.
Thus the name of the game is to educate your children and teens about these devices so they do not use them, let alone become addicted. If you or your teen smokes and wants to use e-cigarettes to quit, remind him or her that this is not a great idea, since e-cigarettes mimic smoking too closely to change the smoking behavior. You and your child are better off trying nicotine gum or a patch to prevent nicotine withdrawal symptoms.
Of course, if you do smoke or vape, your kids may want to do it as well. So consider quitting smoking or not vaping for their health as well as for your own.
Hopefully tips like these will smoke out what you need to know when it comes to discouraging the use of e-cigarettes just as much as regular ones by your teens and you.
Dr. Lewis First is chief of pediatrics at Vermont Children’s Hospital at Fletcher Allen Health Care and chairman of the Department of Pediatrics at the University of Vermont College of Medicine. For archives or to submit a question, visit www.FletcherAllen.org/firstwithkids.