Vaping Poses Increased Risk to Teens

Parents Need to Talk with Children About Dangers of E-Cigarettes

While most parents already talk with their children and teens about the dangers of smoking, drug use and drinking alcohol, they should include one more topic: vaping.

Vaping is the use of e-cigarettes, which are battery-powered devices that heat a liquid containing nicotine, flavorings and the chemicals glycerin and glycol and turn it into a vapor that the users inhale. E-cigarettes deliver nicotine, a highly addictive drug, to the body without producing smoke.

According to the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention, more than one-quarter of students in grades 6 through 12 and more than one-third of young adults have tried e-cigarettes. Many teens are attracted to vaping because there are different flavors and because it does not produce smoke they wrongly believe e-cigs do not pose a health threat, said Zachary Baeseman, MD, a family medicine physician at ThedaCare Physicians-Waupaca.

“Just like regular cigarettes, e-cigs deliver nicotine to the body. Nicotine is not only highly addictive, it is also a cardiovascular stimulant,” he said. “People may think since they are not inhaling smoke, that there’s no danger, but that’s not true.”

Nicotine also harms adolescent brain development, which continues until the mid-20s, since nicotine changes the way synapses are formed, which can harm the parts of the brain that control attention and learning.

Studies have shown e-cigarettes may be toxic to airways, cause inflammation and increase the risk of infections. In addition, people at risk of heart disease or already have heart disease, e-cigs can raise the risk of having a heart attack since nicotine can damage blood vessels.

“If pregnant women smoke, the nicotine can also harm the developing fetus and lead to babies born with low birth rates,” Dr. Baeseman said.

Besides nicotine, most e-cigs contain a flavoring chemical called diacetyl, which has been linked to a respiratory disease called bronchiolitis obliterans (also known as popcorn lung). The Food & Drug Administration and the CDC continue to study vaping and its potential long-term health dangers. Some people have also been burned by the heating units used to warm the liquid in the e-cigarette.

“E-cigarettes can be an entry into smoking real cigarettes and perhaps more dangerous drugs,” Dr. Baeseman said. “Parents and teens need to understand the risks involved with using e-cigarettes.”

For more than 100 years, ThedaCare® has been committed to finding a better way to deliver serious and complex healthcare to patients throughout Northeast Wisconsin. The organization serves over 200,000 patients annually and employs more than 6,800 healthcare professionals throughout the region. ThedaCare has seven hospitals located in Appleton, Neenah, Berlin, Waupaca, Shawano, New London and Wild Rose as well as 32 clinics in nine counties. ThedaCare is the first in Wisconsin to be a Mayo Clinic Care Network Member, giving our specialists the ability to consult with Mayo Clinic experts on a patient’s care. ThedaCare is a non-profit healthcare organization with a level II trauma center, comprehensive cancer treatment, stroke and cardiac programs as well as a foundation dedicated to community service.