Teens and E-Cigarettes

The good news is that fewer than 16% of teens are smoking cigarettes today, which is the lowest rate in 22 years. The bad news is that at least 10% of high school students have tried e-cigarettes. Vaping is perceived as not only trendy, but safe. But according to last month’s issue of Science News, cutting edge research says otherwise. Parents should be aware of emerging dangers to better inform teens and tweens who are already vaping or curious about trying it.

This activity is far from harmless. Although e-cigarettes deliver less nicotine than traditional cigarettes, they pollute the lungs with toxic chemicals and may even make antibiotic-resistant bacteria (for example, those that cause pneumonia) harder to kill. Solvents are lung irritants that can turn into carcinogens, about half of which make it into the lungs. Higher levels of nanoparticles trigger the inflammation that is linked to asthma, stroke, heart disease, and diabetes. Plus, the chemical flavoring and food preservatives from the vaping liquid, generally recognized as safe, have only been tested when ingested rather than inhaled. In one study, one day after mice breathed air containing vapor-exposed germs, they had three times the amount of bacteria growing in their lungs as mice that got unexposed germs.

Although scientists haven’t figured out everything about e-cigarettes yet, so far it looks like they present significant dangers. Parents should share this knowledge with their teens before they take up vaping.

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