All of the sudden e-cigarettes are everywhere and it can be hard for parents to know what to do. The marketing for vaping products makes them seem safe and fun. But if that's true then why are schools are taking drastic measures like banning flash drives and taking the doors off of bathrooms to curtail their use?
Legal expert Loni Coombs fills you in on what you need to know about teens and vaping.
E-Cigarettes are not harmless
The marketing for vaping products touts how safe they are relative to traditional cigarettes. While that may be true, there are still issues associated with their use, specifically the amount of nicotine they contain. "First of all, this is not harmless," Coombs said. "Each pod is equal to a pack of cigarettes. Let's say your teenager starts smoking just one pod a week. In five weeks they've smoked the equivalent of 100 cigarettes and at that point they're considered to be established smokers."
Vaping ended a downward trend in teen smoking
Decades of awareness campaigns about the danger of smoking were actually working until e-cigarettes appeared on the market. "The smoking rate for teenagers had been dropping drastically," Coombs said. "It was a huge success, but sure enough, once these e-cigarettes came in they became very attractive to teenagers."
It's easy to hide when you're vaping
It's hard to smoke without people finding out. You need a pack of cigarettes, a lighter and of course there's the smell. Vaping on the other hand is much more discreet. The pods look like flash drives, making them easy to confuse for school supplies. The vapor is also much less obvious than cigarette smoke, to the point where kids are able to get away with it in the middle of class. "They can puff it into their backpack or into their desk and it dissipates. There's no smell like from a cigarette," Coombs said.
The benefits of e-cigarettes don't typically apply to teens
One of the core selling points that e-cigarette companies tout about their products is their effectiveness in helping people quit smoking. Vaping is a way to help smokers transition off of cigarettes into a less deadly product while still meeting their nicotine needs. "The problem is when it's attractive to teens, you're getting kids who have never smoked before starting smoking or vaping," Coombs said. The result is kids who become addicted to nicotine from vaping who may end up taking up cigarettes later on.
Nicotine is bad for brain development
Even though it's illegal in California for anyone under 21 to buy nicotine products, kids are still getting their hands on e-cigarettes at a time when they could be detrimental to their brains. "Nicotine is very hard on your brain development," Coombs said. "They're getting that hit that helps them and they're getting hooked on them. It's addictive. It's extremely addictive."