Electronic cigarettes, also called “e-cigarettes,” or electronic nicotine delivery systems (ENDS), are legally sold and used for smoking (also known as “vaping”) nicotine. E cigarettes may look like regular cigarettes, cigars or pipes. Some look like USB sticks, pens, and other everyday items. In addition to nicotine, these products can also be used to inhale marijuana and other drugs.
E-Cigarettes and Youth
E-cigarettes have gained popularity among youth in recent years. According to the Kentucky Incentives for Prevention survey, e-cigarette usage has increased dramatically for Northern Kentucky 10th graders, from 7.7% reporting e-cigarette use in the past 30 days in 2016, to 20.3% in 2018 (https://www.kipsurvey.com/).
Many of the new e-cigarettes, including JUUL, look like USB flash drives and other shapes, making them easy to conceal from parents, teachers and other adults. They are also appealing to young people because they contain flavors such as fruit, mint and mango. The flavorings used in e-cigarettes have not been tested for lung toxicity in the vaporized form.
What are the health risks associated with using e-cigarettes?
E-cigarettes are designed to deliver nicotine, flavorings and other chemicals to the user via an inhaled aerosol. Due to the name that is often given to smoking e-cigarettes – vaping – there is the belief that these devices are harmless. E-cigarettes, however, can lead to serious health problems. Most contain nicotine, as well as heavy metals and other chemicals, that can be breathed into the lungs. Bystanders can also breathe these in when the user exhales into the air. Nicotine can cause addiction in adults, adolescents and children. During adolescence, nicotine exposure can impact learning, memory and attention, as well as increase the risk for future addiction to other drugs.
The CDC has been investigating over 200 cases of serious lung illness in at least 25 states. One death has been reported. Symptoms of the disease include difficulty breathing, shortness of breath, fatigue, vomiting and diarrhea. While the use of THC, the mind-altering chemical in marijuana, was documented in many of the cases, no specific product has been identified as the cause for the illness at this time. One common factor, however, is use of an e-cigarette device.
What can you do?
One of the most important things we can do to prevent e-cigarette use is to educate parents and young people about the potential health risks. For more information about the harms associated with e-cigarette use, as well as tips for parents, visit: https://e-cigarettes.surgeongeneral.gov/
Other actions the public can take include:
- Supporting your child’s school in their enforcement of tobacco-free policies, including e-cigarettes, and implementing a tobacco prevention curriculum.
- Setting an example by being tobacco-free.
Information on Quitting
If you currently use tobacco products, including e-cigarettes, it’s never too late to quit. Visit https://nkyhealth.org/individual-or-family/individual-health/quit-smoking/ for information on available resources.
For more information on e-cigarettes and vaping, visit https://www.cdc.gov/tobacco/basic_information/e-cigarettes/
For more information on the investigation of cases of severe lung illness associated with vaping, visit https://chfs.ky.gov/agencies/dph/dmch/hpb/Pages/pd-information.aspx