E-Cigarettes and Your Health

E-Cigarettes are electronic devices that heat a liquid (containing nicotine or other drugs) and produce an aerosol, or mix of small particles in the air.  They come in many shapes and sizes; some look like regular cigarettes while others are disguised as everyday devices including USB flash drives, pens, credit cards or sweatshirt “hoodie” strings.  Using an E-Cigarette is often called “vaping” or “Juuling.”

Most E-Cigarettes contain nicotine – the addictive drug in regular tobacco products.  Research has shown nicotine to damage the adolescent brain, which keeps developing until age 25.  Using nicotine in adolescence can harm the parts of the brain that control attention, learning, mood and impulse control.  Each time a new memory is created, or a new skill is learned, stronger connections – or synapses – are built between brain cells. Young people’s brains build synapses faster than adult brains. Nicotine changes the way these synapses are formed.  Using nicotine in adolescence may also increase risk for future addiction to other drugs.

Scientists are still learning about the long term health effects of E-Cigarettes.  Children and adults have been poisoned by swallowing, breathing, or absorbing e-cigarette liquid through their skin or eyes.  E-Cigarette aerosol is NOT harmless “water vapor.”  The aerosol users breathe can contain harmful substances including nicotine, flavoring such as diacetyl (a chemical linked to lung disease), volatile organic compounds, cancer-causing chemicals and heavy metals such as nickel, tin and lead.

E-Cigarettes are not legal for youth to use or possess under the age of eighteen.  To purchase a Juul device online, the customer must be twenty-one.  Despite these age restrictions, one in three Kansas youth have experimented with E-Cigarettes.  Parents, schools, health providers and law enforcement can combat the youth E-Cigarette use epidemic by becoming informed, updating public tobacco policies, and setting a good example by being tobacco free.

By: Ashley Svaty