What Your Kids Don’t Know: A Vaping Primer for Parents

Cigarette use may be down, but vaping is on the rise. In fact, the use of e-cigarettes (in all forms with a rainbow of different flavors) is one of the fastest growing trends among the tween and teen crowd, in large part because of the perception that it’s “harmless” and “safe.”

The American Heart Association estimates that at least 1 in 4 teenagers is vaping from results of a 2015 survey of more than 15,000 teens nationwide.

Amir Wahab, MD, a family medicine physician with Memorial Physician Services–Lincoln, points to targeted marketing tactics as a culprit in vaping’s growing popularity.

“The industry is using the same tactics that were used by tobacco companies several decades ago,” Dr. Wahab said. “They are denying the possible health risks that can occur in using tobacco products.”

Wahab agrees that smokeless tobacco contains fewer chemicals than cigarettes, but that doesn’t make it a safer habit.

“It still contains several harmful chemicals such as formaldehyde, which is known to cause cancer,” he said. “The problem is this product has not been around very long, and we don’t know the long-term health risks associated with using e-cigarettes, and we won’t know for another 10 to 15 years.”

As of June 1, 2016, vaping by minors is illegal in the majority of states–including Illinois. Illinois penalties up to $200 and 50 hours of community service can be leveled against minors in possession of vaping products. Courts may also request parents to attend an awareness program with their child.

“It is important for parents to discuss vaping with their children,” Wahab said. “It’s easily available and many children think it’s ‘safe’ and just ‘flavored water vapor.’ The reality is that it’s a drug and addictive just like any tobacco product.”