When JUUL e-cigarette maker disconnected their Instagram and Facebook accounts over a year ago, their marketing efforts to children and teens didn’t miss a beat. Thousands of young Instagram users still mention JUUL each day in their posts. Over a third of posts were outright promotions of the products.
JUUL firmly established E-cigarettes and vape products as part of youth culture and young people themselves are now driving the disturbing increase in vaping. Memes promoting the “cool factor” and “safety” of vaping include celebrities like Jack Black and Kevin Hart and characters like Napoleon Dynamite and Family Guy’s Peter.
Alzein Pediatrics urges you to take this epidemic seriously and being talking early and often to your kids, ideally before they get to middle school or junior high. Knowing the facts about vaping can help you start this conversation.
Vaping was originally marketed as a smoking cessation aid, as a “safe” alternative to combustible (burning) tobacco. However, doctors do not recommend that adults use e-cigarettes to stop smoking and the American College of Cardiology does not endorse vaping as a cessation tool.
Now, over 50% of vapers are under the age of 35 and did not transition from combustible tobacco. Kids are starting to vape earlier and earlier. In 2014, just 8.8% of children under the age of 14 had vaped. In 2018, that percentage was over 28% – and today, children are more likely to start at the age of about 12. In just ten years, the percentage of teens who vape has skyrocketed from just 1% to 27%. Over a third of high school seniors are now vaping.
Vaping nicotine is just as dangerous to your child’s physical, academic and emotional development as smoking nicotine. Nicotine is a psychoactive, toxic drug that will:
• Impair brain development
• Impact executive functioning
• Harm memory function
• Cause mood disorders, depression and anxiety
• Weaken immune system
• Cause heart disease
• Cause high blood pressure
• Increasing risk of blood clots and atherosclerosis
• Affects pancreas, raising risk of diabetes
• Cause asthma, pneumonia and other chronic breathing disorders
• Cause gastrointestinal disorders such as ulcers, diarrhea and heartburn
Nicotine is addictive and the salts used in vaping products cause dramatically higher levels of nicotine to be delivered to your child’s developing brain. Flavored products, most popular with teens, mask the taste of nicotine, encouraging repeated use and increasing the risk of addiction. Nearly 81% of teens say that those flavors are the primary reason they use vaping products, and they feel peer pressure to try as many flavors as possible.
Nicotine-free vaping is no better. This still exposes lungs to chemicals and damages your child’s lungs, heart and vascular system. Nicotine-free products typically contain:
• Formaldehyde, causing cancer
• Acetaldehyde, causing cancer
• Acrolein, causing heart disease and lung damage
• Particulates, causing blood vessel damage, nervous system damage and painful inflammation
• Toxic metals such as lead, tin, nickel, cadmium and mercury
Throughout the country, the vaping illness epidemic has not slowed. In 2019, as of December 19, over 2,500 patients have been hospitalized with vaping associated lung illness and 54 people have died. 80% of these patients are under 35 years old, typically a young man of age 19. Even after recovery, their quality of life will be impacted for decades by a decrease in lung capacity. Symptoms of this illness include:
• Chest pain
• Shortness of breath
• Weight loss
Congress has taken a huge positive step and last week made it unlawful, effective immediately, for anyone under the age of 21 to purchase any tobacco or vaping products that contain nicotine. However, the reality is that these products will still make it to underage children and research has found that 63% of users between the ages of 15 and 24 do not know that vaping contains nicotine.
Protect your children’s health and educate them about the very real dangers of vaping. If you’re concerned that your child is vaping and you need help getting them to quit, click here or call 708-424-7600 to make an appointment. Alzein Pediatrics is here to partner with you!