The e-cigarettes, or vape that young people are using are not just about “looking cool.” The flavored liquid inside contains nicotine, which is addictive and harmful. It also contains glycerin and propylene glycol, which are used to create the “vapor” they inhale. Some contain more nicotine than others, and it’s impossible to know exactly what is in a vape from its packaging alone. A few puffs can cause irritation and inflammation of the lungs, narrowing of the tubes that bring air in and out of the lungs, and even scarring. The damage may not show up for years, but can lead to lung problems like pneumonia and emphysema.
Nicotine gets into your brain within 10 seconds of vaping and triggers a surge of dopamine, a chemical that makes you feel good. But this can cause long-term changes to the brain, causing you to crave more nicotine and leading to addiction.
An average vape pod contains as much nicotine as 20 cigarettes and inhaling too much can lead to seizures and convulsions. In some cases, e-cigarettes can explode when their battery overheats. And the chemicals in the liquid can irritate the skin and eyes, and even be ingested or inhaled by pets and children.
In the UK, a number of experts have called for tighter rules and regulations on vapes to deter under-18s from using them. These include a ban on disposable vapes, which are the most popular with kids, and a ban on advertising them to under-18s. Some campaigners have even suggested a higher tax on them, similar to that on tobacco products.
The government has said it will consider these measures. In the meantime, the Department of Health and Social Care has introduced regulations to prevent kids from vaping. These include restricting sales to over-18s, limiting nicotine content, refill bottle and tank sizes, labelling requirements, and advertising restrictions.
Research shows that teens who use e-cigarettes are more likely to start smoking traditional cigarettes. One study found that high school students who vape are more than four times more likely to smoke than those who don’t. That’s why it is important for parents and teachers to talk with their kids about vaping, and encourage them to live vape-free lives.
There are lots of free resources that can help kids and adults quit vaping, including online, texting, and phone services, and apps. It can be tough to stop, but it is possible. It’s best to never start vaping in the first place, but if you do, try to quit as soon as you can. Your body, mind, and future deserve it.
You can learn more about how to talk with your kids about vaping with these free tools from the Truth Initiative. These include lesson plans, activities and videos for middle and high schools. You can also download this self-led vaping curriculum from the American Lung Association that includes free resources to help educators teach their kids about the dangers of vaping.