According to the 2015 Valley-wide Youth Risk Behavior Survey-Botetourt, Craig, Roanoke and Salem cities, middle and high school-aged youth in the Roanoke Valley are using electronic vapor products (e-cigarettes) more than traditional cigarettes.
Electronic cigarettes (called “e-cigarettes”) are battery-operated products designed to deliver nicotine, flavor and other chemicals. They turn chemicals, including highly addictive nicotine, into an aerosol that is inhaled by the user and exhaled as a smoke-like cloud. The act of smoking an e-cigarette is called “vaping.” Most e-cigarettes are manufactured to look like cigarettes, cigars or pipes but can resemble everyday items such as pens and USB memory sticks. Because e-cigarettes deliver nicotine without burning tobacco, teens may think they are a safer alternative to traditional cigarettes.
In addition to seeming safer than traditional forms of tobacco, other common reasons why teens use e-cigarettes include sweet flavors, the ability to vape anywhere they want, inexpensive prices, brightly-colored casings and performing tricks with the vape cloud. Vaping videos and photos among teens are popular on social media and can be found using such hashtags as #Vape, #Vapelife and #Vapelyfe.
The teenage years are a crucial time for brain development. Exposing the growing brain to nicotine – a highly addictive drug – may cause permanent damage to brain development, lead to chronic tobacco use and increase the risk of addiction to other substances. The liquid in e-cigarettes may also contain known carcinogens (substances that can cause cancer) and toxic chemicals, so even if they are vaping with flavored liquids that don’t contain nicotine, they are still harming their bodies.
The federal government and the Commonwealth of Virginia prohibit the sale, distribution and use of electronic cigarettes, vapor products and other alternative nicotine products to anyone under the age of 18, but teens can get around this by ordering products online. By educating yourself and your teens about the dangers of e-cigarettes, you can make a difference in helping your teen make positive choices about their health. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse:
- Nicotine affects the brain, nervous system and heart. It raises blood pressure and heart rate. The larger the dose of nicotine, the more a person’s blood pressure and heart rate go up, which can lead to an abnormal heart rate and even heart failure and death in rare cases.
- Once the body is introduced to nicotine, it will crave the chemical. If the person does not continue to take in nicotine, they will experience withdrawal symptoms including depression, tiredness, irritability and cravings.
- Over time, nicotine use can lead to serious medical problems, including heart disease, blood clots and stomach ulcers.
Listed below are links for more information related to e-cigarette legislation and use:
- E-Cigarette Regulations – Virginia
- Regulating Electronic Cigarettes and Similar Devices
- Vaporizers, E-Cigarettes, and other Electronic Nicotine Delivery Systems (ENDS)
Parents, talk to your teens. They will listen!