Electronic cigarettes are touted as a safer alternative to traditional cigarettes, but health officials are concerned about e-cigarette use by children and teenagers. The number of middle school and high school students using electronic cigarettes tripled in just one year, creating concerns about the safety and long-term effects of e-cigarette use. Although electronic cigarettes produce vapor instead of smoke, they still contain nicotine, giving them the potential to be just as addictive as traditional cigarettes.
Approximately 4.6 million students use some form of tobacco, according to Brian King of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Representatives from the CDC and the Center for Tobacco Products say children and teens use electronic cigarettes more than any other tobacco products. Because electronic cigarettes contain nicotine, using them poses some of the same dangers as smoking cigarettes or chewing tobacco.
If a child or teen tries to stop using electronic cigarettes, nicotine withdrawal can cause anxiety, irritability, restlessness and depression. These cigarettes are especially dangerous for people who have heart problems. If a child has an undiagnosed heart problem, using e-cigarettes can lead to serious consequences. The nicotine found in e-cigarettes can even damage the arteries over time, making users more susceptible to heart attacks, strokes and other serious complications.
Researchers are especially concerned about the increase in electronic cigarette use because of the effects nicotine has on the developing brain. Using tobacco products during adolescence makes it more likely that a person will use tobacco products in adulthood, perpetuating the cycle of nicotine addiction and making it difficult for young users to quit. Dr. Thomas Frieden, director of the CDC, says electronic cigarettes are more popular now because of the aggressive marketing campaigns launched by e-cigarette companies. These campaigns are very similar to the campaigns that convinced people to start using tobacco in the 1950s. Although the use of cigarettes and cigars by children and teens has declined, there hasn't been a net decrease in the use of tobacco products.
Some manufacturers make electronic cigarettes with candy flavorings, making the devices very appealing to children who would be turned off by the smell of a traditional cigarette or cigar. Because the Food and Drug Administration does not regulate electronic cigarettes, there are also some concerns regarding product quality and safety. If manufacturers don't pay close attention to quality control, there's a chance electronic cigarettes could become contaminated by harmful substances before being distributed to customers.
If you work with children or teens, talk to them about the dangers of using electronic cigarettes. Although the devices do not produce smoke, they do produce a vapor filled with nicotine. Inhaling this vapor has many of the same effects as smoking or chewing tobacco. Taking time to talk about the dangers of electronic cigarettes just might help prevent a few young people from trying e-cigarettes or other tobacco products.
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