10 Facts Parents Should Know About E-Cigarettes

Prevention & Awareness

January 29, 2020

The number of middle and high school students using ecigarettes rose from 3.6 million in 2018 to 5.4 million in 2019—a difference of about 1.8 million youth, according to the CDC. If you haven’t talked with your kids about vaping, you need to. Before you do, here are 10 facts parents should know about e-cigarettes.

1. What is an e-cigarette? 

An e-cigarette is an electronic nicotine delivery system (ENDS) that heats up a solution to a high enough temperature that it can be inhaled as an aerosol. The solution almost always contains nicotine, flavoring and a humectant, such as propylene glycol. E-cigarettes can also go by other names such as e-cigs, JUULs, e-hookahs, vapes, vape pens and mods.

2. What does an e-cigarette look like? 

You may not recognize an e-cigarette if your child has one. They can look like a pipe or cigar, but they most often look like a USB flash drive, a pen or like other everyday objects.

3. Do e-cigarette vapors smell like cigarette smoke? 

An e-cigarette does not give off the unpleasant odor that a regular cigarette does. If anything, it can smell pleasant, depending on the flavoring chosen by the user. The smell typically dissipates within a few seconds, though, and does not linger on the user the way traditional cigarette smoke does.

4. What are the dangers of e-cigarette use? 

More research is needed to determine the long-term effects of e-cigarette use. It is known that nicotine use poses health risks. While more studies are done, in the meantime, the American Cancer Society reports that vaping can cause serious lung disease. Additionally, it can cause other health issues such as cough, trouble breathing, chest pain, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, fatigue, fever and weight loss.

5. Are any vaping products safe? 

The important thing to know is that no matter what form it comes in, nicotine is addictive and harmful for youth and young adults. Even when e-cigarettes do not contain nicotine, the other chemicals in their liquid can cause serious health hazards.

6. What does vaping do to the lungs? 

In January 2018, the National Academies of Science, Engineering and Medicine released a consensus study report that reviewed over 800 different studies. It determined that “using e-cigarettes causes health risks. It concluded that e-cigarettes both contain and emit a number of potentially toxic substances. The Academies’ report also states there is moderate evidence that youth who use e-cigarettes are at increased risk for cough and wheezing and an increase in asthma exacerbations.”

7. Is second hand exposure dangerous? 

In a 2017 report, the surgeon general noted that second hand aerosol “may expose bystanders to harmful constituents such as nicotine, heavy metals, ultrafine particulates, volatile organic compounds, and other toxicants.”

8. How many young people are using e-cigarettes? 

According to the American Lung Association, “20% (5 million) of all youth use e-cigarettes, a 135% increase in just two years.” 

9. Why do young people start using e-cigarettes? 

The 2011-2017 National Youth Tobacco Survey indicates that middle and high school students begin using e-cigarettes for three main reasons:

  • 39% Use by a “friend or family member”
  • 31% Availability of “flavors such as mint, candy, fruit or chocolate”
  • 17% Belief that “they are less harmful than other forms of tobacco such as cigarettes”

10. When should I begin talking with my kids about e-cigarettes? 

Talk to your children before middle school. Let them know that you do not approve of cigarette or e-cigarette use. You can make a difference just by having a conversation. If you need help getting the conversation started, download the surgeon general’s parent tip sheet.

If you would like to learn more about the facts, statistics and regulations surrounding e-cigarettes, click here.