E-cigarettes and vaping: What you need to know

With near daily news reports about the rising use of e-cigarettes by young people and studies that highlight the risks surrounding these products, we think it’s important for our community to stay informed about this topic. 

The following was written by Mariner parent, Dr. Aparna Gulati, who has generously offered to partner with Moreau Catholic to share relevant medical and psychological information with our community. 

Did you know?

Vaping, also known as JUULing, is becoming common among high school students. It is now more common than the use of regular cigarettes. Many types of e-cigarettes are available, but one popular brand is JUUL. JUUL is becoming more prevalent with youth in high school because of its small size, and it looks like a USB device. The main reason teens vape is because of the candy or fruit flavors to the e-cigarette. The sale of e-cigarettes and vaping products are illegal to anyone under age 21. California’s smoke-free laws ban vaping in public places and workplaces. 

What is vaping? What are e-cigarettes? 

Vaping is the use of electronic cigarettes (e-cigarettes). E-cigarettes are also known as e-cigs, vape pens, vapes, mods, e-hookahs, JUUL, Suorin, or MarkTen®. E-cigarettes are battery-powered devices produce a vapor that is inhaled into the lungs. E-cigarettes are often designed to look like real cigarettes, pens, universal serial bus (USB) flash drives, or other everyday items. Here are some of the latest devices. 

What is being vaped? 

Many substances can be vaped, but the most common are variations of flavored e-liquids which come in small bottles or pre-filled pods or cartridges. 

Flavored e-liquids come in thousands of flavors ranging from cotton candy and grape to king crab legs and hot dog. 

Flavored e-liquids with differing levels of nicotine. One of the more popular devices, JUUL, contains 59 mg/ml of nicotine in each pod, the equivalent of a pack of cigarettes. 

Flavored e-liquids with marijuana. Marijuana can be vaped in a variety of forms including its dried leaves or using THC and/or CBD oil (THC is the psychoactive compound that creates a sense of being high). (See below for more on vaping and marijuana). 

Is vaping safe? 

Vaping and the use of any products containing nicotine is unsafe and harmful. Although nicotine exposure can damage brain development up until the age of 25, the effects on the brain are lifelong. The effects can impact memory, learning, mood, attention, and impulse control. 

The e-liquid nicotine can be toxic and sometimes deadly if swallowed, inhaled, or touched. Some e-cigarette devices have exploded, causing injuries, burns, or even death. E-cigarette devices and e-liquids must be kept away from pets and children at all times. 

E-liquids can come in fruit, candy, chocolate, or menthol flavors, making it seem like these products are safer and healthier than regular cigarettes. 

Vaping may be increasing risks of smoking. Teens and young adults who vape are almost four times as likely as their non-vaping peers to begin smoking cigarettes. 

Signs of vaping 

  • Presence of vaping equipment or related product packaging 
  • Unusual online purchases or packages 
  • The scent is faint, but you may catch a whiff of flavoring like bubble gum or chocolate cake 
  • Increased thirst or nose bleeds 
  • Decreased caffeine use 
  • Use of vaping lingo in text messages or on social media 
  • Appearance and/or behavior changes 

What can parents do? 

It is important to talk with kids about the dangers of vaping. 

  • Be equipped with facts. Download the vaping guide for parents and read it over. Remain familiar with vape devices, what’s being vaped and the risks associated. 
  • Have conversations. Opportunities to discuss vaping can present themselves in many ways: letters from the school, advertisements, seeing it on TV, walking by someone vaping or passing a vape shop. Be ready to listen rather than lecture. Try using an open-ended question like “What do you think about vaping?” to get the conversation going. Parents should monitor screen time use. 
  • Convey your expectations. Express your understanding of the risks along with why you don’t want your child vaping. If you choose to set consequences, be sure to follow through while reinforcing healthier choices. 
  • Be a good role model. Set a positive example by being vape and tobacco-free. If you do vape, keep your equipment and supplies secured. 

What to Say When Your Teen Asks 

Q: Isn’t vaping safer than smoking cigarettes? Exposure to toxic substances may be reduced, but there are still significant concerns when replacing smoking cigarettes with vaping. One’s lungs are exposed to fine particles, metals, other toxins, and nicotine, which are all harmful. You may use the example that “Driving 90 miles an hour with a seat belt on is safer than without one, but neither is safe.” The same goes for vaping. And as with all substance use, ask your child why they’re interested in vaping in the first place. 

Q: Everyone is doing it, why do you care? You can say, “I know you might think this because of what you see in school or on social media, but the fact is that the majority of teens are choosing not to vape. It might be popular among some kids, but that doesn’t mean it’s safe.” 

Q: You smoke, so why shouldn’t I? If you’ve tried to quit, respond by saying something like, “You’re right, smoking is unhealthy and I’ve tried to quit and wish I had never started. I don’t want you to start an unhealthy habit and struggle the way I have.” 

Resources for Parents 

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Office on Smoking and Health. (n.d.) Talk with Your Teen About E-cigarettes: A Tip Sheet for Parents. Retrieved from https://e-cigarettes.surgeongeneral.gov/documents/SGR_ECig_ParentTipSheet_508.pdf 

CATCH My Breath Program. (n.d.) Parent Resources. Retrieved from https://catch.org/lessons/catch-my-breath-middle-school-parent-resources